Jacob Soll is Professor of Philosophy, History and Accounting at the University of Southern California. He is the author of The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations (New York, 2014).
Abstract: There have been numerous attempts to explain the origins of the French Revolution, and the politics that took place during event. However, historians have ignored that a crisis in public finance and accounting was the central spark of the Revolution. Indeed, I discovered a trove of pamphlets that show just how focused French leaders and the public were on questions of accounting and accountability, and that, for the first years of the Revolution, attempts to improve accounting and public balance sheets were at the fore of the political actions of the first revolutionary governments. However, this was not an isolated event. Early modern Europe saw a number of political crises emerge over accounting and accountability so that we might see the two subjects as central to a useful approach in looking at the origins and mechanisms of financial and political crises in general.