John Malcolm Ludlow, Victorian Christian Socialism and the Friendly Society Act of 1875


The existing narratives devoted to the history of accounting in the Victorian period often turn on the extent to which the legislation relating to accounting regulations was driven by a laissez-faire policy and, further, the extent to which the associated mix of interventionist and laissez-faire legislation was the product of either ad hoc, or knee jerk, reactions to intolerable social-cum-economic crises or a systematic implementation of the Radical Philosophical ideology. The implicit premises underlying these narratives is that the Radical Philosophical ideology was an over-arching conceptual framework to which the majority of the Victorians responsible for accounting legislation subscribed and that, when constructing this accounting legislation, these legislators either held firm to this framework or somehow manipulated it to incorporate anomalies. In this paper we provide a more nuanced narrative of the development of accounting regulation by arguing that the legislation that resulted in accounting regulation in the Victorian period was often constructed by individuals who were actively hostile to both a laissez-faire policy and the Radical Philosophical ideology. We illustrate this argument by examining the important role played by the Victorian Christian Socialist, J. M. Ludlow, in the drafting of the Friendly Society Act of 1875. We contend that this legislation, like much of the legislation that had implications for accounting regulation, was designed to allow mutable citizens to raise themselves to a more spiritually and materially satisfying life within a collectivist environment.


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