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Accounting and accountability

By Jonathan Derbyshire  

In the latest issue of Prospect, John Kay begins his review of The Reckoning by the American historian Jacob Soll as follows: “If Prospect held a competition for the most improbable conjunction of author and quotation, my entry would pair Goethe with the observation that ‘the system of book-keeping by double entry is among the finest inventions of the human mind.'” I’m tempted to say that almost as improbable is the fact that Soll has written a riveting book about the history of accountancy. But that would be unfair, because The Reckoning is really a book about political legitimacy and…

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