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Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Financeby Jane Gleeson White
Synopses & Reviews
Filled with colorful characters and history, takes us from the ancient origins of accounting in Mesopotamia to the frontiers of modern finance. At the heart of the story is double-entry bookkeeping: the first system that allowed merchants to actually measure the worth of their businesses. Luca Pacioli--monk, mathematician, alchemist, and friend of Leonardo da Vinci--incorporated Arabic mathematics to formulate a system that could work across all trades and nations. As Jane Gleeson-White reveals, double-entry accounting was nothing short of revolutionary: it fueled the Renaissance, enabled capitalism to flourish, and created the global economy. John Maynard Keynes would use it to calculate GDP, the measure of a nation's wealth. Yet double-entry accounting has had its failures. With the costs of sudden corporate collapses such as Enron and Lehman Brothers, and its disregard of environmental and human costs, the time may have come to re-create it for the future.
"Gleeson-White offers a lively and elegantly written account of the history of double-entry bookkeeping. Though the topic hardly sounds intriguing, the author makes ledgers and numbers come alive. As she writes: 'Our urge to account — to measure and record our wealth — is one of the oldest human impulses.' Gleeson-White, who holds degrees in economics and accounting, describes in vibrant and engaging prose how early writing systems were shaped by clay counting tokens, and how the development of the double-entry system, derived from Arabic mathematics, revolutionized commerce and capitalism in Renaissance Italy and contributed to the development of today's global economy. In a spellbinding historical narrative, the author traces the system from Luca Pacioli's pioneering accounting treatise, 'Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportione et proportionalitÃ ,' to the Industrial Revolution, when the profession of 'chartered accountant' was established. Moving into modern times, Gleeson-White details how shortcomings in the system and 'gaping holes in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act' and other regulations that contributed to recent corporate collapses, such as Enron and WorldCom.This dynamic examination of the impact and legacy of double-entry bookkeeping is sure to appeal to those in the accounting profession, business leaders, and history buffs, and will likely become required reading in business school curricula. Agent: Wenona Byrne, Allen & Unwin. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A timely, topical, readable, and thought-provoking look at the history and legacy of double-entry bookkeeping."--Elif Batuman, author of
About the Author
Jane Gleeson-White holds degrees in economics and accounting and is studying for her PhD in creative writing and literature. She has worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice and currently lives in Sydney, Australia.
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