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"How easy can the barley brie": Drinking culture and accounting failure at the end of the nineteenth century in Britain

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Purpose ‐ This paper seeks to extend the development of the historical accounting research agenda further into the area of popular culture. The work examines the discourses that surrounded the drinking of alcohol in nineteenth century Britain and explores how an accounting failure disrupted the tension between the two established competing discourses, leading to a significant impact on UK drinking culture at the end of the nineteenth century. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper employs both primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources are used to develop the main themes of the discourses deployed by the temperance societies and the whisky companies. Primary sources derived from the contemporary press are employed, as necessary, in support. Findings ‐ The paper demonstrates that accounting, although it may not be central to a discourse or other social structure, can still have a profound impact upon cultural practices. The potential for research into culture and accounting should not therefore be dismissed if no immediate or concrete relationship between culture and accounting can be determined. Further support is provided for studies that seek to expand the accounting research agenda into new territories. Originality/value ‐ The study of popular culture is relatively novel in accounting research. This paper seeks to add to this research by exploring an area of cultural activity that has hitherto been neglected by researchers, i.e. by exploring how an accounting incident impacted upon the historical consumption of Scotch whisky in the UK.

Keywords: Accounting; Alcoholic drinks; Culture; Drinks; History; Temperance; United Kingdom; Whisky

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-05-04

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