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Date updated: 2/05/2023

Records of some financial organisations held at London Metropolitan Archives

London Metropolitan Archives holds the largest single collection of business archives held by a local authority in England and Wales representing businesses mainly based in the 'Square Mile' of the City of London as well as in the wider Greater London region. LMA’s holdings are especially strong in merchant banking and insurance, particularly in the period before the Big Bang, and in this accruing series, compiled by Claire Titley, we take a closer look at the records of business organisations which represented the interests of City professionals and firms or regulated them, such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW), the British Bankers Association (BBA), the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the London Chamber of Commerce (the other LCC).

These records are relatively underused, and can be a valuable source of information on a wide variety of topics including the development of financial products and services, resourcing (finance/staffing/investment), the effects of technological changes (development of the office, new processes, new markets), employment (demographics, culture, commuting), the development of finance-related professions and the relationship between them, investment at home and abroad, the development of global markets and of financial services in other territories, the study of commodities, the relationship between the City of London with government, political parties and public opinion, and the relationship between organisations (including the role of the Bank of England), and finally, but not exhaustively, the changes to the physical nature of the Square Mile itself, its margins and the growth of areas such as Canary Wharf.

At LMA you can find books on the City around shelf mark 33.0 in the LMA Library. David Kynaston’s 'City of London – The History' is particularly helpful; it is rich on colourful examples and his interest in social history makes it a fascinating read. (It is an abridged version of his 4 volume history, which LMA does not have). More analytical is Ranald Michie’s 'The City of London – Continuity and Change 1850-1990'. There is a useful little series of books with titles such as 'What goes on in the City?' by Nicholas Ritchie (33.0 RIT). These were published every so often with updated definitions and are useful for basic descriptions (for example, a 1970s one will give you a very clear picture of the City at that period). LMA is better stocked with histories of individual banks, around the same shelf mark.

Of course, Guildhall Library has a rich collection of printed sources related to business history, and researchers intending to do any proper background reading should start there.

We continue by looking at the records of professional bodies in the field of accountancy.

Professional bodies in the field of accountancy

The Institute of Accountants, The Society of Accountants, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

Formed in November 1870 as the Institute of Accountants in London. The accountants who founded the Institute sought to set up an association of accountants incorporated by royal charter; however, the Privy Council of the time was disinclined to recommend further grants of charters. The object of the Institute was: 'to elevate the attainments and status of professional accountants in London, to promote their efficiency and usefulness, and to give expression to their opinions upon all questions incident to their profession.' Under the rules, membership was confined to professional accountants in London. Accountants not in the profession, such as those employed in dock and railway companies, were barred from membership, as were those who carried on other business as well as accountancy.

Those who did not qualify for membership of the Institute, formed the Society of Accountants in England in 1872. In the same year, the Institute, in response to complaints from accountants practising in the provinces, opened up membership to suitable applicants from all parts of the United Kingdom, changing its name to the Institute of Accountants. Few provincial accountants applied for membership, however, whilst the Society of Accountants grew rapidly.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales was established by royal charter on 11 May 1880 (CLC/B/124/MS28431B). The charter incorporated the five English accountancy bodies established between 1870 and 1877: the Incorporated Society of Liverpool Accountants (now the Liverpool Society of Chartered Accountants); the Institute of Accountants; the Manchester Institute of Accountants (now the Manchester Society of Chartered Accountants); the Sheffield Institute of Accountants (now the Sheffield and District Society of Chartered Accountants); and the Society of Accountants in England.

View of Chartered Accountants' Hall in Moorgate Place, 1966
Chartered Accountants' Hall in Moorgate Place, 1966. LPA ref: 48587

Its objects as redefined in the supplemental charter of 1948 were, and are: 'to advance the theory and practice of accountancy in all its aspects, including, in particular, auditing, financial management and taxation; to recruit, educate and train a body of members skilled in these arts; to preserve at all times the professional independence of accountants in whatever capacities they may be serving; to maintain high standards of practice and professional conduct by all its members; to do all such things as may advance the profession of accountancy in relation to public practice, industry, commerce and the public service.'

The first application for membership by a woman was received in 1888 but was not allowed until after the First World War when the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in 1919 made it illegal to bar women from membership. In 1992, the Institute had over 100,000 members.

The Institute sets its own entry requirements, code of ethics and disciplinary and practising standards, and monitors the activities of members and firms to ensure that the standards are maintained.

The records include governance documents, rules and regulations; minutes; committee reports; bye-laws; circulars; correspondence; legal papers; precedent books; membership lists and registers; papers relating to staff; scrapbooks, event and printed material.

What could these records be used for?

The role of the accountant is hundreds of years old, but it wasn’t until the after the mid-19th century that the professional accountant became recognised. These records are key to understanding the development of the profession in the United Kingdom (including demographics, financial education etc.) They can be used to trace individual accountants so are useful for family history. At a time when the profession is undergoing an unprecedented level of scrutiny, they provide information on the national and international regulation of the profession, and its influence on the financial sector, business and wider policy.

For the archives at LMA see the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales Research Guide for further details.

Find out more on the LMA online catalogue under reference CLC/B/124.

The ICAEW Library and Information Service also holds a rich collection on the history and development of the accountancy profession including a collection of online resources. Find out more on the ICAEW Historical Resources webpage.