Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Accounting, Economics and Finance


The acceptance by the British Royal Navy in 1832 of an accounting system based upon double entry bookkeeping to be used for its central administration accounting was the first occasion on which this mode of bookkeeping was officially adopted by a British Government department. It was a momentous event in accounting history for the system was the precursor to the institutionalisation of DEB by all government departments which was to play a critical role in the evolution of modern public sector accounting and audit through the enhancement of the financial accountability of the executive to Parliament. The object of this study is to scrutinise ‘the recruitment of DEB’ by the Navy through an examination of the system’s evolution and its eventual acceptance by the restructured Admiralty following the abolition of the Navy and Victualling Boards. The remarkable efforts of one individual, Sir John Deas Thomson, in the development of the system have been given prominence in this study for until now he has remained an unknown in accounting history. It was only through his leadership, accounting skills, devotion to duty, drive and dogged determination that ‘the recruitment of DEB’ in 1832 came to fruition in an arena of challenge built upon politics, ignorance, conservatism, arrogance and obfuscation. In achieving this object, the study will contribute to accounting history research by extending and expanding the literature on the initial adoption and use of DEB by the British Government, and in so doing will provide further evidence of the importance of key individuals such as Deas Thomson in the institutionalisation of accounting practices.

FoR codes (2008)

150102 Auditing and Accountability, 150103 Financial Accounting, 150302 Business Information Systems



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.