Document Type

Journal Article


The South African War (1899-1902) exposed significant defects in the administration of the British army which precipitated several parliamentary inquiries. The findings of these inquiries convinced the British Government that army administrators, but especially those responsible for supplying the army, had given insufficient attention to the military benefits which might be obtained from the methods and experience of business. The absence of cost accounting systems throughout the War Office and on the field of battle, resulting in problems for financial management and military efficiency, was given particular prominence by the War Office (Reconstitution) Committee (Esher Committee) and the Royal Commission on War Stores in South Africa. The paper broadens the compass of the debate about the evolution of cost accounting in the latter decades of the 19th and early 20th centuries by demonstrating how the advantages of cost accounting were clearly established and accepted by many senior civilian military administrators and politicians as a result of British experience during the South African War.