Publication Details

This book chapter was published as Irvine, HJ, The legitimizing power of financial statements in The Salvation Army in England, 1865 - 1892, in Funnell, W and Williams, R (eds), Critical and Historial Studies in Accounting (pp. 383-415), Pearson Education Australia, 2005. Original book available here.


Since its inception The Salvation Army has relied heavily on external funds to survive. There is evidence to suggest that at the time of its founding, in 19th century England, and in its early years, financial statements played a powerful legitimizing role. This was crucial to an organization like The Salvation Army, newly formed and in desperate need of funds. This view is consistent with institutional theory, which emphasizes the importance of such legitimacy. However, it challenges the notion, prevalent in academic literature on accounting in religious organizations, that there is a resistance to the use of accounting as a "secular" activity in an organization with a "sacred" mission. The societal context of the early Salvation Army, the unique characteristics of William Booth, its founder, and its struggle for survival in its early years, all demonstrate an emphasis on an image of financial responsibility, and a reliance on the Army’s audited financial statements to provide that image.