Accounting concepts in the construction of
social status and privilege: a microhistorical
study of an early Australian convict
ACCOUNTING IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Accounting historians ‘need a clear understanding of context’ (Fleischman et al 1996,
p. 62; see also Carnegie & Napier 1996), with a chief critique of traditional accounting
histories being that ‘accounting is abstracted from its historical context’ (Stewart, 1992 p. 58).
The environment of the colony of New South Wales (NSW) in the late 18th and early 19th
centuries is important in understanding the nature and roles of accounting, accountability and
accounting concepts. The multiple aims of the early colonial governors were to establish the
foundations for the colony’s eventual self-sufficiency and to find gainful employment for
convicts and emancipists to reduce the drain upon the government stores, as well as to
improve the rehabilitative prospects for transportees. In large part, the early colonial economy
was structured around barter and indebtedness, rather than monetary exchange (Carnegie
2004; Parker 1982), and foodstuffs such as wheat and corn became currency (Kercher 1996,
pp. 143-144). Food shortages of the late 1700s and early 1800s (see Egan 1999) made the
utilisation of convicts as farm labourers, and the development of agricultural activities, an
‘economic necessity’ (Alford 1984, p. 81). Governor Phillip’s founding of the Parramatta and
Toongabbie area, with its rich soils, was instrumental in promoting self-sufficiency in grain
for the colony (King 1990, p. 60)
BISMAN WRITES ABOUT A CONVICT BY THE NAME OF BEST WHO WENT ON TO BECOME FINANCIALLY AFFLUENT AND MATERIALLY SUCCESSFUL.
THE SAME ACCOUNTING PROCESSES INC USE OF CENSUSES MUSTERS AND OTHER DOCUMENTATION OF THE 19TH CENTURY IN THE COLONY ESP WHEN APPLIED TO MONITORING CONVICTS – PROFILES THE LIVES OF PATRICK , MELINDA AND FAMILIES. THE ISSUES INVOLVED IN FEEDING HIS FAMILY WHILST WAITING FOR PAYMENT FROM REV FULTON FOR THE FENCING OF THE GLEBE AT CASTLEREAGH , THE SUBSEQUENT THEFT OF 5 PIGS AND THE IMPACT OF BEING IMPRISONED FOR A LENGTH OF TIME NOT YET DETERMINED ON THE MCNALLYS. ONE OF THE OUTCOMES MIGHT WELL HAVE BEEN THAT MELINDA WAS HANDED INTO THE CARE OF THE FEMALE ORPHANAGE OR AT LEAST INTO REV HILLS CARE. THIS ALSO IN ACCOUNTING SYSTEMS LEADS TO HER BEING COUNTED AS PROTESTANT FROM THAT POINT ON , NAME CHANGES ETC.
AND LATER HER INTESTATE STATE IN 1868. AT THIS POINT A READING OF ACKLAND’S “HENRY KENDALL THE MAN AND THE MYTHS” IS RECOMMENDED IF YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH.
ANYWAY READ BISMAN’S PAPER ON THE CONVICT BEST AND RELATE IT AS BEST YOU CAN TO WHAT WE SO FAR KNOW OF MELINDA’S WORLD .