Book Reviews: Methodology and Method in History, a Bibliography

Article excerpt

It is difficult to know how to review a bibliography, but presumably it must be relevant (and useful) and complete. In the Introduction, it is stated that

The objective of this bibliography is to provide the accounting history research community with a comprehensive reference tool that will ultimately enhance their (sic) understanding of methodological issues and enable them to employ research methods appropriate to their subject of study [xiii].

It is tempting to ask whether this is an aim which is as noble and romantic as the setting for the origins of the project ("a curbside cafe on a balmy summer's night in Pisa" [ix]). It is difficult to believe that merely presenting a list of titles will enhance the reader's awareness of methodological issues. The editors obviously are aware of this and have designed a taxonomic grouping of the titles. It would seem that they have given this matter some considerable attention and there are thirteen such groups. Even so, they are not likely to please everyone and it would be easy to take issue with the rationale for the taxonomic divisions. In selecting their categories, the editors have indicated their vision of history; for example, why are there separate groups for historiography, philosophy of history and the historical rationale? Can evidence and sources be separated from interpretation and social dimensions? The editors, it would seem, are not convinced of either: some titles included under one heading in one section of the book are included in a different group in the another section.

The book is divided into Four parts. The first introduces the taxonomic groups with summary reference lists. That is, the works, numbered for cross reference, are listed under a particular group. The next section forms the main part of the book, with the full reference (and numbered) citation being given. The third section contains an annotated selected bibliography. The final, very brief section lists accounting history review and method papers. It is unfortunate that this last section is so brief and any charges of incompleteness may justifiably be laid here.

The broader question concerns the extent to which readers can be made aware of the methodological issues in undertaking historical research: the editors have certainly led the horses to the water, but will (or can) they drink? If they do not, the editors cannot be blamed for they have made every effort to present the material in a manner they believe will help the would-be accounting history researcher come to terms with most of the types of historical research that have become accepted over the years. …