Bridging the divide: The rise of the Indian Accountant from 1900 to 1932

Sian, S. and Verma, S. (2021). Bridging the divide: The rise of the Indian Accountant from 1900 to 1932. The British Accounting Review, 53(2), article no. 100875.



The Accountancy and Empire literature is replete with studies in which the salient recurring theme has been that of “otherness”. An alternative interpretation of the colonial encounter is offered in this study of the rise of professional accountancy in India whilst under British rule. The study draws on Cannadine’s theorisation of Ornamentalism (2001), which suggests that class was equally as important as race when it came to contemplating the extra-metropolitan world. We draw on this concept as an aid to understanding why the professionalization trajectory in India was different from other racially-diverse colonies and how high-caste Indians were able to bridge the racial divide and enter professional accountancy during the colonial period. The study draws on archival data to examine the processes put in place to enable the rise of the Indian Accountant and professional organisation under a pervasive British presence. We forward the notion that British perceptions of Indians and Indian accountants were framed by the recognition of caste-class affinities that were not prevalent in other colonies and, in India, accountancy was considered to be a profession suitable for Indians from the higher castes.

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