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EEFAG/Accounting seminar series - An accounting analysis of the Stephenson Company’s contribution to the development of the British railway locomotive industry c.1823-1840

Wednesday, 1 April 2020
13:00 to 14:30
Professor McCollum-Oldroyd
Durham University Business School MHL453

Prof. David McCollum-Oldroyd (Newcastle University Business School, University of Newcastle) presents the paper 'An accounting analysis of the Stephenson Company’s contribution to the development of the British railway locomotive industry c.1823-1840'

Co-authors: Dr. Neveen Abdelrehim (Newcastle University Business School), Mr. Tom McLean (Durham University Business School), Prof. Thomas N. Tyson (St John Fisher College, USA).

Lunch: will be served at Fusion Restaurant between 12.15-1pm.


The paper seeks to understand the part played by the Stephenson Company in the rapid development of the British railway industry in the 1820s and 30s. The Company capitalised on a pre-existing and well-developed business and technological infrastructure in the North-East, and brought together the essential ingredients of a vision of the future, financial backing and lines of credit, experience in production management, technical expertise, a potential market, and supply networks of materials, components and skilled labour. The amount of capital required to set up a locomotive factory was relatively small compared to the vast sums needed to engineer a rail network, without which there was little point to the engines. To attract investors in railways, the Stephenson Company had to prove the viability of the technology. Examination of the accounting arrangements supports this interpretation of the Company’s business model, which was first and foremost to create demand for railways by providing a demonstrably efficient and reliable mode of transportation that would in turn increase demand for the Company’s products, the more the network expanded.

Professor David McCollum-Oldroyd

David spent ten years in the accountancy profession before moving into academic life. He is a chartered accountant and a graduate of the Departments of History at Liverpool (BA) and Durham (MPhil) Universities. David obtained his PhD at Newcastle University. He is the winner of the 2013 Hourglass prize for outstanding contribution to accounting history research. The dual aims of David's research are to understand why accounting is such a powerful force in society by exploring the processes of accounting change and to improve professional practice. David is especially interested in the causes and consequences of accounting change and the manner in which practice develops. He has explored this theme since the 1990s in relation to land management and industrialisation in the 18th and 19th centuries, focusing on the accounting and financial technologies underlying activities. His historical work up to the present has followed three main strands: 1) estate management practice in the North-east of England during the 18th century; 2) plantation management in the Caribbean and American South during the transition from slavery to a free economy; 3) health and the poor in Victorian urban populations. David is also interested in financial reporting and has published papers on the Conceptual Framework and intangible assets. He is a member of the Technical Committee of the British Accounting and Finance Association's Financial Accounting and Reporting Special Interest Group (FARSIG), having served as chair from 2007-2019. The committee submits comments grounded in academic research to the International Accounting Standards Board, the Financial Accounting Standards Board and professional bodies on accounting policy proposals.