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Book review: The Reckoning by Jacob Soll

By John Kay   May 2014

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.”

Historian Jacob Soll develops the case that double entry ranks with gravitation, calculus and relativity, as he uses the history of accounting to provide insight into business and political history. Accounting has Sumerian origins, but only the emergence of tractable numbering systems—imagine financial statements with Roman numerals and no zero—made effective book-keeping…

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