Fraud and incompetence: Accounting in the Papal States (1831–1859)

Valerio Antonelli, Stefano Coronella, Carolyn J. Cordery, Roberto Verona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Papal States was a longstanding nation ruled by the Pope, the Head of the Roman Catholic Church. Its accountants included priests and laymen who were employed as bureaucrats. Despite an expectation that the finances would be carefully managed, this research from the mid-nineteenth century shows that incompetence and fraud dogged the Papal States’ latter years, contributing to it losing most of its territory in the Second War of Italian Independence from 1859, and its final demise in 1870. This prosopography of three men who held high bureaucratic positions, analyses their approach to accounting in the Papal States. It shows that waste and deficient accounting arose from individuals undertaking fraud and from organisational (and individual) incompetence. In doing so, it elucidates how the Papal States could be a ‘vehicle for fraud’, and in particular, how it was used as a shield to enable both fraud and incompetence to go unpunished.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-584
Number of pages33
JournalAccounting History
Issue number4
Early online date27 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (


  • Papal State
  • accounting fraud
  • incompetence
  • nineteenth century
  • prosopography


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