MEHR Seminar: Markus Lampe, Universidad Carlos III Madrid, 'Accounting for the Success of the Danish Dairy Industry: The Spread and Development of Best Practice in Bookkeeping in the Late Nineteenth Century'

Abstract: We consider the development of accounting practice as a key determinant of the success of Danish dairying and thus the Danish economy as a whole in the late nineteenth century. Agriculture in Denmark was an early adopter of scientific method in dairying, particularly with the promotion by first the estate owner J. Friis and later by Professor of Dairy Husbandry at the Royal Agricultural College in Copenhagen, Th. Segelcke, of professional measuring equipment. This was used to take precise measurements of inputs and outputs, which were carefully recorded in a way then unique to Denmark. In this way, the professionalization of bookkeeping and accounting, in particular within dairying, was reinforced. We demonstrate how accounts were used by Danish estate owners and farmers to take a multitude of important decisions, for example on inputs and outputs as well as on organizational forms and technology. Moreover, their conclusions and data were published in scientific journals and thus helped spread knowledge of best practice. The result was specialization throughout Denmark in a modern, capital intensive, efficient and highly commercialized and export oriented form of dairying organized around cooperative creameries.