Accounting for war risk costs: management accounting change at Guinness during the First World War

Martin Quinn* (Corresponding Author), William J. Jackson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores management accounting change at the St. James's Gate Brewery of Arthur Guinness & Sons Ltd brought about by the effects of the First World War (WWI). In particular, how additional war risk costs were accounted for internally is revealed. Using organisational routines as a theoretical backdrop, new management accounting practices are interpreted. These new practices allocated war risk costs incurred by head office (in Dublin) to other parts of the company. The key role of existing management accounting routines in the formation of new routines is also revealed. Although WWI was an exogenous driver of change, endogenous change also featured as existing practices guided the creation/adaptation of routines. In essence, accountants within the Guinness Company drew upon their existing knowledge to deal with a new and complex scenario (i.e. the war). Thus, change and stability went hand in hand. Although change did occur, it was moderate and more adaptive, which signifies that existing accounting routines were strong and adaptable to major drivers of change such as WWI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-209
Number of pages19
JournalAccounting History Review
Issue number2-3
Early online date9 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • accounting change
  • Guinness
  • the First World War
  • war risk costs


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