Ofélia Pinto


Based on extensive archival research, this paper analyses the role of accounting in managing an 18th century multinational Portuguese company. Using the concept of action at a distance, it is demonstrated how accounting was used to manage
the Companhia Geral do Grão Pará e Maranhão, established in 1755, whose interconnected activities were conducted in three continents. Considering the constraints of the time, namely the challenge of distance and slow communication, the main picture emerging from archival sources is that this company was a vast machine fuelled by accounting information. The main findings of the paper contribute to previous literature on the constitutive role of accounting and demonstrate its multifaceted nature.