Academic journal article Accounting Historians Journal

20th Century Publications on Cost Accounting by Spanish Authors Previous to the Standardization Act (1900-1978)

Academic journal article Accounting Historians Journal

20th Century Publications on Cost Accounting by Spanish Authors Previous to the Standardization Act (1900-1978)

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper aims to describe and explain the beginning and evolution of cost accounting in Spain through the examination of accounting texts. In this evolution, three periods are distinguished: the late 19th century, the first half of the 20th century, and 1951-1978. In 1978, the official standardization of Spanish cost accounting occurred. Cost accounting first appeared in Spanish texts at the start of the 20th century. However, in 19th century accounting treatises can be found references to some aspects of cost accounting to which the paper refers. The traditional orientation of authors in the second period clearly reflects a monistic recording pattern, i.e., that cost accounting in combination with general accounting forms a homogeneous whole, with full-cost allocation on the basis of historical costs. The small differences found among these authors relate to a large extent to the fixed-costs allocation. This period corresponds to the introduction into Spain of the Central European school of accounting thought represented by Pedersen, Schmalenbach, Palle Hansen, and, above all, by Schneider. This influence intensified from 1951 onward. In the second half of the 20th century, German thought shared influence with American thought represented in the works of Kester, Horngren, Lang, Lawrence, Neuner, etc. The French Accounting Plan (General Chart of Accounts), published in 1957, also had an obvious influence on Spanish accounting scholars of this time. This influence is clearly shown in the Spanish standardization of cost accounting published in 1978 as part of the first Plan General de Contabilidad (General Accounting Plan) passed in 1973.


After fixing the aims of every piece of research, either historical or current affairs, the researcher has to begin by delimiting the period under consideration. In our case, the focus is on the development of academic cost accounting. It is not our purpose to analyze how cost accounting thought evolved by studying company cases [e.g., Musgrave, 1976; Amat 1991, 1992; Fleischman and Parker, 1992; Bhimani, 1993; Amat et al., 1994; Carmona 2006], but to study the academic evolution of the subject. That is why the methodology of the paper focuses on an examination of textbooks published in Spain.

Due to the scarcity of material on cost accounting authored by Spanish researchers prior to the 20th century, the starting point of this study is the beginning of that century. Some attention has been accorded to earlier authors as an introduction to the subject. The end point is 1978, the year in which official Spanish cost accounting standardization was promulgated. This standardization was not particularly relevant from a practical point of view for firms but was quite significant for academicians.

The primary source material for the paper came mainly from texts housed in the Spanish Biblioteca Nacional (National Library), (1) as well as those in the Schools of Commerce. (2) The Departamento de Contabilidad y Gestion (Accounting and Management Department) and the library of the Facultad de Economicas y Empresariales (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration), both at the University of Malaga, and the paper Accounting Publications and Research in Spain: First Half of the 20th Century [Carrasco et al., 2004, pp. 40-58] have also provided great support to the project.

Nineteenth century antecedents were found by means of a bibliographical search for every author's first work in which there was reference to accounting applied to specific activities, to special accounting, or to accounting used by factories and industries. This breadth was necessary because the term "cost accounting" had not yet been coined. Publication date was the criterion used to sort the authors' lists into the three identified time periods. On this basis, some authors are included in the section devoted to the 19th century if their contribution to cost accounting was contained in a work published in that century, even if its subsequent editions appeared in the 20th century. …

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