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ÔRationalÕ Farmers and the Emergence of Modern Accounting in Danish Dairying

Markus Lampe and Paul Sharp ()

No 115, Working Papers from European Historical Economics Society (EHES)

Abstract: We argue that Danish agriculture provides an ideal opportunity to understand how and why modern accounting emerged. Denmark underwent an unusually rapid and successful agricultural transformation in the second half of the nineteenth century, largely based on dairying, for which we present unique Ôreal timeÕ data on the process of the development of accounting. We observe that economic actors first argued for the introduction of modern accounting at a time of crisis during the Napoleonic Wars and immediately after, when the proscriptive arguments offered failed to take hold. Then, in the 1850s and 1860s, a group of Ôrational farmersÕÐ owners and administrators of landed estates Ð made a second attempt. During this latter period, they succeeded in spreading their ideas: initially to their peers, but later even to the peasantry through the cooperative movement, thus transforming agricultural practice in their wake. We analyze this within a theoretical framework borrowed from the international relations literature, and see the rational farmers as an example of the creation of an Ôepistemic communityÕ: they emerged during a period of uncertainty, offered interpretations based on their normative understanding of reality, and finally institutionalized praxis through for example scientific journals and schooling.

Keywords: Accounting; bookkeeping; dairies; Denmark (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: M41 N53 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-acc, nep-agr and nep-his
Date: 2017-11
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