MARTIN E. PERSSON AND CHRISTOPHER J. NAPIER
R. J. Chambers on Securities and Obscurities:
Making a Case for the Reform of the Law of
Company Accounts in the 1970s
This study examines the contribution of Raymond J. Chambers to the
British inﬂation accounting debate in the early-to-mid 1970s, from the
perspective of the reception of his book, Securities and Obscurities: A
Case for Reform of the Law of Company Accounts, published in 1973. To
structure the empirical narrative, drawing on previously unpublished
documents from the R. J. Chambers Archives, we employ Czarniawska
and Joerges’ (1996) notion of the ‘travel of ideas’, and Mumford’s (1979)
observation of the existence of ‘inﬂation accounting debate cycles’. The
result is a narrative that traces the environmental and material
circumstances that led to Chambers’ book having a lesser impact on the
British inﬂation debate than one would expect based on the international
exposure of his ideas, his inﬂuence at the time, and the empirical rigour
of his proposal. The purpose of this exercise is to assess how contextual
factors, such as the choice of publisher, use of promotional material, and
distribution methods, can be as (or more) important than the substance
of the proposed ideas, arguments, and solutions.
Key words: Accounting cycles; Inﬂation; R. J. Chambers; Securities and
Obscurities; Travel of ideas.
The fact that [Raymond J. Chambers] has apparently had much less impact
on the practical developments of the last decade than his competitors
stands as a warning that we should not view practical developments merely
as the outcome of an academic debate: ideas are well-received when the
environment is favourable to them, not merely when they ﬁnd an eloquent
advocate (Tweedie and Whittington, 1984, p. 191).
(firstname.lastname@example.org) is with the Ivey Business School, Western University.
(email@example.com) is with the School of Management,
Royal Holloway University of London. This study was made possible by funding from Royal Holloway
University of London and the Academy of Accounting Historians of the American Accounting
Association. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 37th Annual Congress of the
European Accounting Association, Tallinn, and the Critical Perspectives on Accounting Conference,
Toronto, in 2014. The authors are grateful for the comments of Graeme Dean, Sandy Qu, and the
participants at these presentations. The authors are also thankful for the extensive feedback from an
anonymous reviewer. Any errors that remain are our own.
© 2018 Accounting Foundation, The University of Sydney
ABACUS, Vol. 54, No. 1, 2018 doi: 10.1111/abac.12123