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Internal control, accountability and corporate governance: Medieval and modern Britain compared

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Purpose ‐ The aim of this paper is to compare modern internal control systems with those in medieval England. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This paper uses a modern referential framework (control environment, risk assessment, information and communication, monitoring and control activities) as a lens to investigate medieval internal controls used in the twelfth century royal exchequer and other medieval institutions. It draws upon an extensive range of primary materials. Findings ‐ The paper demonstrates that most of the internal controls found today are present in medieval England. Stewardship and personal accountability are found to be the core elements of medieval internal control. The recent recognition of the need for the enhanced personal accountability of individuals is reminiscent of medieval thinking. Originality/value ‐ It investigates internal controls in medieval England for the first time and draws comparisons to today.

Keywords: Accounting history; Corporate governance; England; Internal control; Management accountability

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 19, 2008


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