The professionalisation efforts of accountants in the Orange Free State, 1907 - 1927: an exploration of their first twenty years.
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Professionalisation forms an important domain in the accounting history arena. The geographical spread of professional organisations occurred via the relay of empire and the movement of international capital. Outcomes of professionalisation endeavours are strongly connected to the social and political context in which they occur. The mineral discoveries towards the end of the 19th century established South Africa’s first industrial community. As the country’s economy expanded, the virtues of simple living and conduct of business passed and there was a growing need for the services of individuals who had knowledge of accounting and of commerce. Most of the skilled accountants who migrated were of British descent. These accountants contributed to the development of the profession in South Africa. The Transvaal, Cape Colony, Natal and Orange River Colony (ORC) each established accounting societies around this time in response to the new industries and business. The Society of Accountants in the Orange River Colony was established in November 1907, five years after the conclusion of the South African War, by seven English gentlemen practising as accountants in Bloemfontein. This was the smallest society in comparison to the other colonies in Southern Africa at the time, and had grown from merely 16 foundation members in 1907 to 60 in 1927 with the passing of the Chartered Accountants Designation Act. The Society of Accountants and Auditors in the Orange River Colony (SAAORC) was a voluntary body, unlike the Transvaal and Natal societies. Accountants in the ORC could conduct their business as accountants and auditors and advertise themselves as such, whether they were members of the SAAORC or not. This article investigates the formation years of the accountants’ society in the Free State and explains the difference between this development path and that of the earlier preceding societies. The article explains the establishment of a British profession in a former Boer Republic and the mechanisms of professional closure implemented to safeguard the status of the profession.