Renaissance man Luca Pacioli wrote the definitive book on double-entry bookkeeping. It’s regarded by many as the most influential work in the history of capitalism.
Luca Pacioli was a renaissance man – he was a conjuror, a master of chess, a lover of puzzles, a Franciscan Friar, and a professor of mathematics. But today he’s celebrated as the most famous accountant who ever lived, the father of double-entry bookkeeping. Before the Venetian style of bookkeeping caught on, accounts were rather basic. An early medieval merchant was little more than a travelling salesman. He had no need to keep accounts – he could simply check whether his purse was full or empty. But as the commercial enterprises of the Italian city states grew larger, more complex and more dependent on financial instruments such as loans and currency trades, the need for a more careful reckoning became painfully clear. In 1494 Pacioli wrote the definitive book on double-entry bookkeeping. It’s regarded by many as the most influential work in the history of capitalism. And as the industrial revolution unfolded, the ideas that Pacioli had set out came to be viewed as an essential part of business life; the system used across the world today is essentially the one that Pacioli described.
Producer: Ben Crighton
Editors: Richard Knight and Richard Vadon
(Image: Handwritten accounting ledger, Credit: Suntezza/Shutterstock)
Sources and related links
Jane Gleeson-White - Double Entry: How the merchants of Venice created modern finance, London, Allen and Unwin
Alfred W. Crosby - The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western society, 1250 - 1600 Cambridge University Press, 1996
Omar Abdulla Zaid - 'Accounting systems and recording procedures in the early Islamic state' Accounting Historians Journal, December 2004
Iris Origo - The Merchant of Prato: Daily life in a medieval Italian city, Penguin Classics, 2017
Michael J. Fisher - 'Luca Pacioli on business profits' Journal of Business Ethics 25, 2000
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