In Chapter 3 professionalisation was identified as an important research area in accounting history. The aim of this chapter is to examine the major themes and findings of the academic research published in this area since the early 1980s. The chapter tracks the geographical spread of professional organisation. It shows that professionalisation processes are diverse. England and Scotland were pioneers in a professionalisation movement that was exported in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries via the relays of empire and international capital. Professional organisation outside of the Anglo-American world would assume a different pattern, most notably in continental Europe. More recently, processes of regional integration and globalisation have contributed to a further transformation of the profession’s structure and identity. The chapter also evidences that the construction of this identity, envisaged as the outcome of professionalisation endeavours, is intimately connected with the broader social context within which it occurs. In this respect histories of professionalisation fall squarely within the ‘new’ accounting history and the tradition of socio-historical accounting research discussed in Chapter 2. This chapter provides an overview of the motivations, elements and outcomes of professionalisation at various times and places, and discusses the key institutions (within the occupation and outside it) involved in initiating, supporting, opposing and otherwise shaping professionalisation processes. We touch upon the following themes:
the meaning and significance of ‘profession’, ‘professionalisation’ and the importance of organisation;
explanations for the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of particular professionalisation endeavours;
internal divisions and competition within the occupation and rivalry with other occupations;
the role of symbols, credentials and designations;
relationships between the profession and the institutions of state and market;
professionalisation and social structure;
imperialism, globalisation and professionalisation.