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The relationship between accounting and governmentality, and the increasing statutory regulation of companies by central government during the 19th century have attracted a great deal of attention from accounting historians. Conversely, accounting change within local authorities in this period has attracted far less attention. The paper examines the consequences of the increase in public accountability of local authorities in England and Wales in the context of the Newcastle Corporation, the body responsible for collecting and distributing the town's wealth. During the first half of the 19th century Newcastle Corporation was heavily criticized for neglecting the improvement of the River Tyne. The paper illustrates how the Newcastle Corporation and those opposed to it used accounting as a lobbying tool to promote their interests. Gallhofer and Haslam [2001, p. 29] showed how, in the late 19th century, radical political activists used accounting data through the medium of the press as an emancipatory practice. In many ways, the case of the improvement of the River Tyne during the early 19th century also reveals the use of accounting as an emancipatory' force by opposition groups. The paper finds that the Corporation used accounting data to justify inaction and the opposition used accounting data to promote its objectives. These contests resulted in the control of the River Tyne being taken from the Corporation and placed in the hands of a trust in 1850.



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