Double Entry



Won – Nib Waverley Library Award for Literature 2012
Shortlisted – New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards 2013
Shortlisted – Age Book of the Year 2012
Shortlisted – Queensland Literary Awards 2012

The rise and metamorphosis of double-entry bookkeeping is one of history’s best kept secrets and most important untold tales.

The internationally acclaimed Double Entry tells for the first time the extraordinary story of accounting, which began in Mesopotamia around 7,000 BC and continues today in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crash and ongoing ecological crises.

Our world is governed by the numbers generated by the accounts of nations and corporations. We depend upon these numbers to direct our governments, organisations, economies, societies. But where did they come from - and how did they become so powerful?

The answer to these questions begins in the Dark Ages, with the emergence in northern Italy of a new form of accounting called double-entry bookkeeping. The story of double entry reaches from the Crusades through the Renaissance to the factories of industrial Britain and the policymakers of the Great Depression and the Second World War. At its heart stands a Renaissance monk, mathematician and magician, and his celebrated treatise for merchants. With double entry came the wealth and cultural efflorescence that was the Renaissance, a new scientific worldview, and a new economic system: capitalism.

Over the past one hundred years accounting has flourished to an astonishing degree, despite the many scandals it has left in its wake. The figures double entry generates have become a sophisticated system of numbers which in the twenty-first century rules the global economy, manipulated by governments, financial institutions and the quant nerds of Wall Street.

And the story of double entry is still unfolding - because today many believe it might be our last hope for life on earth.


‘Lively history … Show[s] double entry’s role in the creation of the accounting profession, and even of capitalism itself.’  The New Yorker

‘Lucidly presented … An accessible introduction to this key development in the history of capitalism.’ Edward Chancellor, Wall Street Journal

‘Elegantly written account … charts the epic journey of the humble device that showed how to count the cost of everything, from the Doge’s Palace to the acrobatics of John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory.’ Nicholas Wapshott, author of Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics

Double Entry ‘is the first primer to accounting history and its relevance to the modern world that I have ever seen … The messages it contains are clear and unambiguous and all accountants, practising or not, ought to note the tone of invocation for change. Jane Gleeson-White is to be congratulated.’ Alan Sangster, Accounting History