The Good Fraud: Accounting, Finance and Banking in a 1930s English Novel

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Accounting historians and cultural researchers have often made use of literary sources to provide evidence of accounting practices, and of the character and social status of bookkeepers and accountants. The present study extends this to an English novel of the 1930s, Nevil Shute’s Ruined City, whose protagonist is a banker based in the City of London during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The novel tells the story of questionable financial dealings around the initial public offering of shares in a shipbuilding company, and includes an interesting and frank discussion of accounting manipulation. The present study puts the novel’s story into the context of frauds and financial scandals in Britain in the inter-war period, and examines the extent to which analytical frameworks currently used to study fraud (such as the “fraud triangle”) provide an adequate understanding for such scandals. The study also considers the extent to which apparently realistic literary descriptions of accounting and financial practices can be relied on as historical evidence for accounting, business and financial researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-70
Number of pages28
JournalContabilita e Cultura Aziendale (Accounting and Cultures)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Accounting history
  • Earnings management
  • Fraud
  • Nevil Shute
  • History and fiction

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