Christopher J. Napier


Historical accounting research is sometimes criticised for lack of relevance to contemporary accounting issues. One approach that researchers have adopted to demonstrate relevance is the use of theory and theorisation. This paper studies three frameworks for theorisation developed initially in the organisation studies literature: Ann Langley’s “seven types of sensemaking”, Sue Llewellyn’s “five levels of theorising”, and Mairi Maclean, Charles Harvey and Stewart Clegg’s “four conceptions of history in organisation studies”. These all emphasise the different forms that theorising can take in historical studies, from narrative reasoning, where much of the theory is “behind the scenes”, to highly structured and general theories that may be drawn on and refined in specific historical studies. The paper suggests that theorisation can enhance historical accounting research by stimulating research ideas, identifying important variables, factors and relationships, suggesting existing concepts helpful for identifying relevant evidence, allowing for creativity in developing new concepts and refining existing ones; and ensuring a coherent narrative that is true to the evidence and sensitive to context.