How The Merchants Of Venice Created Modern Finance By Jane G. White

1278 words - 5 pages

How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance, Jane Gleeson-White explores the development of double-entry accounting from its ancient roots up to its impacts on modern day society. She shows that the effects of double-entry accounting are widespread and encompass almost every aspect of life, not just those involving accounting and finance. Gleeson-White delves into topics ranging from the economic system of capitalism to environmental degradation. She even includes a brief psychology discussion comparing corporations to psychopaths. By covering all of these topics, Gleeson-White emphasizes the importance of double-entry accounting and the role that Venetian merchants played in the perfection and widespread use of this accounting system.
Although, it can be argued that the merchants of Venice created modern finance, they cannot be credited with the initial idea of double-entry accounting. The roots of double-entry accounting and accounting as a whole, can be traced back much further. Centuries before the Venetian merchants began using double-entry accounting, other businessmen were accounting for their transactions with a method that used two pages of paper, one for the person who received money or property and another for the one who gave it. Although, accounting records had been kept in some form for hundreds of years prior to the developments of the Venetian merchants, the merchants of Venice are believed to be the first to use a method that required two entries for each transaction. By requiring two entries, the Venice merchants could easily see if their books balanced. This form of record keeping also made it easier for the merchants to compute different figures such as profit, which was not a common idea at the time. Before modern day bookkeeping and accounting could come about, a bigger switch had to take place. (Gleeson-White)
Even though double-entry accounting had been in use prior to this time, it would have looked much different than what accountants are used to today. Prior to the sixteenth century, the most common way for numbers to be written in Europe was in Roman numerals. Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli advocated for the use of Hindu-Arabic numerals because he believed it would make mathematics much easier since all numbers could be written using just ten characters. Opponents of Hindu-Arabic numerals believed that they were inferior to Roman numerals because they could be easily manipulated. The use of Hindu-Arabic numerals was banned by the church in some areas up until the fifteenth century. The merchants of Venice began using Hindu-Arabic numerals because they made arithmetic simpler. Once the merchants were able to use a number system that allowed them to easily add, subtract, multiple, and divide, they were able to begin computing numbers that allowed them to see whether or not their business was profitable. Instead of going through a long, inaccurate process to find out how much profit their business was making, the...

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