Such is the reputation of accounting among the general public – as tedious, pedantic, incomprehensible and, in a word, boring – that many people will run a mile when they hear that a new book about financial book-keeping and its role in economic and political history has been published. They will be making a big mistake. Financial accounting is at the heart not only of capitalism but also of any well-functioning government. Jacob Soll’s The Reckoning is a detailed and versatile demonstration of this important historical truth, written by one of the world’s pre-eminent experts.
‘The banker’, wrote Joseph Schumpeter in his Theory of Economic Development, ‘is the ephor of the exchange economy.’ The analogy is obscure for modern readers, but it is a good one, not least because it captures precisely the intimate connection between financial