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Publication Date

2009

Abstract

The first and most specific purpose of this paper is to contrast the private and public lives of a founder of modern public accountancy to illustrate the ambiguity of an outlier in the history of a professional project. A second and more general purpose is to use the founder's personal history to identify archival issues in biographical accounting research. A historical outlier such as Scottish Chartered Accountant David Souter Robertson (DSR) demonstrates how research of the professional project of Victorian public accountants is enhanced by the inclusion of private as well as public aspects of their lives. Set in the context of the early British public accountancy associations and unsuccessful outliers among their members, the study of DSR focuses on his insolvency at a time when the newly formed associations were facing the issue of setting ethical standards to cope with unsuccessful outliers in their professional projects. The case of DSR illustrates specific problems facing accounting biographers when accessing public archives of the Victorian period.

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