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  1. Shiro
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    Shiro New Member

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    1950s London + accounting/finances

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Shiro, Aug 20, 2013.

    Hi, a newbie here, both to the forum and to in-depth research (but it's never too late, right? :)

    I have a character who was born in late 1920s London and supposedly worked for a relatively unimportant accounting firm there in late 1950s.

    I'm trying to

    (a) get a sense of where the firm might have been situated (The City maybe? or is that only for prestigious firms?) and what the office/people working there would have been like.

    I'd watched the British series The Hour but I'd like some other sources.

    (b) find a book set in that timeline that would give me an idea about the people.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    Like all research, Google is probably a good start. "London financial district 1950" or something like that could work. My knowledge of the City is that even in 1950 there were financial services there...
     
  3. BritInFrance
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    BritInFrance Active Member

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    My dad trained as a chartered accountant and came down to London (from Scotland) at the end of the 1950s. Unfortunately, he died two years ago (and wasn't much of a talker, anyway).

    You could ask the Institute of Chartered Accountants for some advice. No idea how helpful they would be, but like all institutions with a long history, they should be proud enough of it to have details of particular eras...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Chartered_Accountants_in_England_and_Wales#History
     
  4. Shiro
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    Shiro New Member

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    Thanks, yeah, I've been googling stuff every now and then, I'm just a bit intimidated by how much I /don't/ know. I only need a few sentences of cohesive background and maybe one flashback set in his office so I can go with a generic office as glimpsed on photos/tv screen but it would be nice to know where it was located and what the heck they did all day in there :D
     
  5. Shiro
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    Shiro New Member

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    Oh, this gives me an idea - asking an institute is a bit too overwhelming but maybe I could look for memoirs/diaries/interviews with people like your dad. I don't know if it's online anywhere but google's my BFF.
     
  6. DPVP
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    DPVP Active Member

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    i don't know how much accounting plays in , but one thing to remember is that at that point the UK was using UK GAAP and no IFRS like listed EU companies have to use now. also UK GAAP was heavily modified in about 2012 so the current rules will not be historically accurate but may make more sense to a modern reader.
     
  7. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you seen Mad men season 5? Lane Price is an English accountant who comes to work in New York and shows the difference in all things Brit/American, dress, humour, attitude, loyalty, morals. etc. I'm sure London had financiers as ruthless and corrupt as any in the world so it really depends on your story and who you want your characters to be.
     
  8. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Accounting in the 1950s was people with spectacles bending over ledgers and most likely hand-writing figures. Typewriters might also be used, but I don't know how they would be used to fill in a ledger. Mechanical calculators were about. Google "1950s calculating machine" or "Rechenmaschine 1950er" and you will find some useful pictures. Some of them look almost modern, they even have the modern numpad-layout.

    If I were you, I wouldn't bother about mentioning any accounting rules, let alone GAAP/IFRS (I don't believe either acronym existed in the 1950s). Only 2% of your readers are going to understand them anyway.
     
  9. Shiro
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    Shiro New Member

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    thanks a lot, this is very helpful!
     
  10. DPVP
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    DPVP Active Member

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    GAAP dates from the late 1930 or 40's in the States. granted maybe the UK developed its latter then we did
     
  11. Fred
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    Fred Member

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    You may also want to bear in mind that for much of the 1950s a good chunk of London was still under rubble thanks to the luftwaffe, and there was still rationing. It wasn't the city it is now. There are some fine movies of the period that satirised the way some firms did business, and if you can get your hands on them, you may find inspiration or mood in the likes of, for example, I'm All Right, Jack (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052911/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_46), Chance of a Lifetime (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042326/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_32), or (perhaps more fitting) Room at the Top - either the novel by John Braine or the 1959 movie (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053226/?ref_=nv_sr_1).

    Being in the city needn't mean a glittering, prestigious company. A lot of ancient accountancy firms were founded in back streets between St Pauls and Bishopsgate from the early nineteenth century onwards, and if they weren't bombed out by Goering might still be there in the 1950s. Some ballooned with mergers and acquisitions into the multinational behemoths of the late twentieth century, but a lot didn't. Your guy might work for one of those old family firms, if you want him to. The financial sector was not the consolidated beast it is today, and there were still many small, old, independent institutions in ancient, ill-heated buildings in pokey streets.

    Do you live in London? If so, there ought to be some historical resources in your local library. Or maybe try the Museum of London for some flavour and atmosphere. It's a while since I was there, but it's a great place to visit. If not, Google is your friend, along with history websites, film and tv archives, newsreels, memoirs and social history themed pages from places like the BBC and the National Archive. Be creative with your search parameters!

    I didn't watch The Hour, and although it garnered critical acclaim from many quarters, it falls into the same traps that a lot of TV period drama cannot, by its nature, adequately avoid: it's forced by time, money, dramatic necessity and audience engagement to use shorthand to convey a sense of period instead of any deeper understanding of the history. But you're writing fiction, so why not use shorthand too? Whatever you find gets the job done! Some excellent advice I received was "If you don't know, make it up - seriously, everyone else does!"
     
  12. Shiro
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    Shiro New Member

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    Good point - and those movie recs are just brilliant, especially the last one!

    Oh, actually an ancient, non-prestigious firm is more fitting for the guy bc he's a bit of a loser :D

    Haha, I wish I lived in London! Or in UK. It's Google Airways for me.

    Thank you so much for the insightful reply))) This forum's been a real help.
     
  13. Fred
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    Fred Member

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    A quick google using "London film archives 1950s" threw these up, among others. Just bear in mind the context of some of them (like the very dated promotional films issued overseas by the Colonial Office):

    London Screen Archives: http://www.londonsscreenarchives.org.uk/Londo/Main/
    BBC News London: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14901945
    London Video Archive: http://www.inlondonguide.co.uk/london-history/london-on-film.html
    British Railways in the 1950s: http://www.britishrailways.tv/train-videos/2012/british-railways-in-the-1950s-1960s/
    The National Archive: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/films/1951to1964/
    and, of course (if you can stomach the "comments") YouTube!

    Got to go now. Apparently I have some interesting historical movies to watch instead of writing… :)
     

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