Derek Matthews

Publication Date



The purpose of this article is to detail and explain the changes in auditing techniques that have taken place in Britain since the Victorian era, an area of study hitherto neglected by accounting historians. In so doing, it is hoped that an increasing knowledge of past practices will put the current processes into context. The source material for the paper includes new evidence from a program of oral history and postal questionnaires, together with more traditional sources such as the trade journals and textbooks. The so-called bookkeeping audit of vouching and checking postings and castings, and with the auditor also doing a fair proportion of the client's accounting, was typical down to the 1960s. Major changes then took place, including a decline in accounting work, an increased focus on the balance sheet, and a reliance on sampling and the systems approach. This trend is explained by a growth in the size and professionalism of audit clients. Further change since the 1980s reflects the use of risk assessment, materiality, and analytical review and may be ascribed to the growing commercial pressures on auditors.



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