According to The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (1990) the purpose of accounting is to provide information about the economic affairs of an organisation. Every business, organisation and nation is continually engaged in transactions involving money and goods. Interested and responsible parties must have access to the information necessary for assessing the economic status and performance of the organisation.
In a primitive sense, man has always been involved in some form of accounting. For example, a farmer wanting to measure his wealth might have simply counted the number of his cows and sheep. Accounting records date back to as early as 4500 bc. As it is pointed out by Dyson (1994), the growth of a monetary system enabled more sophisticated methods to be developed. It then became possible to calculate the increase or decrease in individual wealth over a period of time.
Glautier & Underdown (1991) draw our attention to the fact that accounting is in an age of rapid transition. Its environment has undergone vast changes in the last two decades and an accelerating rate of change is in prospect for the future. Much of what is accepted as accounting today would not have been recognised as such fifty years ago. Possibly future accounting techniques will bear no resemblance to the ones used today.
To understand the changes accounting has gone through, how it has evolved with developments in society and to predict its future progress the comparison and contrast of definitions from various historical periods is necessary.
The development of accounting.
As it is stated by Glautier & Underdown (1991) the history of accounting reflects the evolutionary pattern of social developments. We can distinguish four phases of accounting:.
Stewardship accounting. The name for stewardship accounting comes from the fact that wealthy man used to employ "stewards" to manage their property. Essentially, stewardship accounting involved the orderly recording of business transactions.