DEFINITION of Academy of Accounting Historians

Academy of Accounting Historians (AAH) is a section of the American Accounting Association (AAA) that publishes scholarly research on the history of accounting. It also grants awards to teachers and academic researchers engaged in historical studies of accounting, and to doctoral students writing dissertations on a historical topic of accounting.  AAH was born in 1973 and remained an independent nonprofit organization until it joined the AAA in 2016, becoming one of the association's 17 interest sections.

BREAKING DOWN Academy of Accounting Historians

Accounting professor Gary John Previts was the driving force behind the formation of AAH. Originally, in 1968, a committee under AAA explored the idea of establishing a unit to "propose objectives for research in accounting history, develop guidelines for the teaching of accounting history in undergraduate and graduate courses, and provide a forum through which those interested in the teaching or research of accounting history can hear papers and exchange ideas." The committee made recommendations to AAA, but the organization did not follow through at the time. Five years later, in 1973, Professor Previts rounded up some like-minded academics and formally founded the Academy of Accounting Historians as a nonprofit organization in Alabama. According to AAH's written history, the Academy's goals were to: "demonstrate the relevance of history to contemporary accounting; encourage scholarly work and exchange of ideas among historians; establish activities such as workshops and seminars to assist in developing and disseminating historical methodology; promote the teaching of historical subject matter; coordinate activities with international accounting history groups; and emphasize the need for continued research in accounting history...by employing conceptual, quantitative, and experimental models." AAH operated independently for 43 years until it was subsumed by AAA, the same group that showed lack of follow-through interest in the late 1960s and early 1970s for a specialized unit devoted to accounting history.

Seemingly an arcane organization, the Academy of Accounting Historians will remind the business world of philosopher George Santayana's famous quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." AAH takes on a productive role in keeping alive the memories and lessons of past abuses of accounting so that present and future accounting can better serve investors and the greater public interest.