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Academic accountancy in Britain was pioneered at LSE by a series of influential academics who introduced and developed an economic perspective to the study of accounting.

In the 1920s it was taught in the Department of Business Administration by part-timers, first Lawrence Dicksee, who had been appointed Cassel Professor of Accounting and Business Methods in 1919, then F.R.M. de Paula, who succeeded him in 1926.  When de Paula resigned in 1929, he suggested that accounting should be taught as part of business administration, rather than as a separate technique.

In response, the Director of LSE, William Beveridge, appointed the economist Arnold Plant as Cassel Professor of Commerce. One of Plant's greatest influences was the work of fellow LSE economist Lionel Robbins who has had a long-running impact on accounting thought in Britain, particularly in the analysis of the nature of cost and the theory of income measurement.

The important members of the Plant circle at LSE were the 'three Ronalds': Coase, Edwards and Fowler, who all produced seminal work exploring ways of applying economic theory to accounting. However, the economics profession in Britain in the late 1930s was more interested in the problems of the Great Slump.

The onset of the Second World War led to the temporary break-up of Plant's group. After the war, the work of Coase and Edwards moved away from accounting, although they had a continuing personal influence on the new generation of accounting academics, the 'LSE Triumvirate' of William Baxter, Harold Edey and David Solomons.

Professor Baxter, appointed in 1947, was the first full-time Professor of Accounting in Britain and made significant contributions to accounting theory in areas such as deprival value and the measurement standards applied to accounting, which have led to current developments in accounting standards. He and his colleagues sought to further develop accounting as an academic discipline, in keeping with well-established LSE academic traditions.

Professor Baxter's research set the standard for challenging pre-conceived notions of accounting as purely an exercise in book-keeping. He made seminal contributions in accounting valuation and on the utility of accounting standards. In management accounting he originated the idea that allocating overheads might proxy for opportunity costs. His work has been used, challenged and revised by academics and practitioners across the public and private sectors, and indeed the work he did on deprival value in the 1970s is still being used by public utilities in the UK today.
The foundations laid by Baxter, Edey and Solomons still underpin the core of understanding about accounting that inspires much academic teaching and research, and increasingly practice.


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