Takashi Yaekura (Waseda University)


Course description
Luca Pacioli (1445-1517) was a great Italian mathematician of his time. He is also known as ‘the father of accounting’ because he was the author of the first book that explained the double-entry bookkeeping system, which actually was a chapter of his math encyclopedia. His encyclopedia, titled as ‘Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita (1497),’ was printed by the active printing system by Gutenberg in Venezia. It started from here.
His chapter on the double-entry bookkeeping system quickly became a bestseller and translated into several languages. Since then, the accounting and bookkeeping has been playing major roles in business everywhere. It is interesting to note that the double-entry bookkeeping system has not changed much since Pacioli, however, the accounting thought has been consistently changing as the business has changed its shape.
This course explores the history of accounting and bookkeeping while ‘visiting’ several regions that lead world’s economy in the past, e.g., Italy, Netherland, England, and the U.S. This course will learn the economic environments of the regions at the time and try to learn how accounting evolved to better serve the ever-changing style of doing business.
This course also introduces how Japan and China incorporated western double entry bookkeeping system into their respective economy. In the nineteenth century when the two countries were trying to catch up western countries, the role of accounting had increased dramatically. We will put our focus on how these two countries not only imported western bookkeeping system but also merged it with their respective traditional accounting practice.
Students are expected to actively participate in class discussions, make a presentation of their finding in the assigned materials, and submit a final research paper based on the presentation and/or relevant themes of their interest.


Syllabus (Topics and regions to be covered, roughly in chronological order)

Course orientation
Bookkeeping before Pacioli (Firenze and other northern Italy cities)
The Summa by Pacioli and early bookkeeping (Venezia)
The evolution of periodic income calculation (Antwerp)
Accounting at the East India Companies (London, Amsterdam, and others)
Industrial Revolution and accounting (London)
Influence of British and Dutch accounting practice in Japan (Nagasaki, Japan)
Commercial code and accounting (Prussia)
The rise of professional accountants (London)
Great depression and its impact on accounting (New York)
Convergence of traditional Chinese bookkeeping system and modern western bookkeeping system (Beijing)
Introduction of modern western bookkeeping system in Japan (Tokyo)

We plan to make a visit at The National Archive of Venezia.

Learning Objectives
1. Develop your understanding of the evolution of accounting and bookkeeping,
2. Appreciate the economic environment of the region where accounting and bookkeeping experienced significant change as the consequence.

Students are expected to possess knowledge of introductory financial accounting.

Evaluation method
50% individual oral presentation(s) in class
20% participation to class discussions
30% written research paper

Main text, which students are expected to read:
Mills, G. T. (1994). Early accounting in northern Italy: the role of commercial development and the printing press in the expansion of double-entry from Genoa, Florence and Venice. Accounting Historians Journal, 21(1), 81-96.
Pacioli, L., & Schemmann, M. (2010). The rules of double-entry bookkeeping: Particularis de computis et scripturis. International Institute of Certified Public Accountants. ISBN: 978-1453702024
Phillips, T. (2003). The Romance of Double-Entry Bookkeeping. American Mathematical Society. Available at
De Ruysscher, D. (2012). From usages of merchants to default rules: practices of trade, ius commune and urban law in early modern Antwerp. The Journal of Legal History, 33(1), 3-29.
Edler, F. (1937). Cost accounting in the sixteenth century: The books of account of Christopher Plantin, Antwerp, Printer and Publisher. The Accounting Review, 12(3), 226-237.

(More to be added)


Last updated: May 11, 2023


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