Accounting as a tool of state ideology to control captive workers from a House of Correction

Adriana Silva, Lúcia Rodrigues, Alan Sangster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose –This paper seeks to interpret the use of accounting information relating to the House of Correction, a public safety institution established in Rio de Janeiro for the control of workers under a tutelage system (1831-1864). The aim of the House of Correction was to develop a disciplined workforce of former slaves and other ‘Free Africans’. Various control and information procedures were put in place to monitor its achievement of this goal.

Design/methodology/approach - This study is based on historical archival research, mainly conducted at the National Archive of Rio de Janeiro and at the Brazilian National Library. The study uses Althusser’s ideology concept and the Marxist concept of reproduction of labour to show how accounting information enabled the administrator of the House of Correction to exercise control over the ‘Free Africans’ consistent with the ideologies of the period and place.

Findings - We find that the House of Correction pursued a policy of ensuring ‘Free Africans’ were docile, obedient and familiar with State ideology.

Research limitations/implications - The research is based on a single case study and it shows the need for both comparative and interdisciplinary analysis in order to increase an understanding of the use of accounting information in ancient prison contexts, as well as in contemporary situations.

Originality/value - This paper extends our knowledge of the use of accounting for the control of workers, who were either captive or repressed due to their ethnical differences; and it shows how ideology can be imposed through the use of accounting information. We extend theory by applying the Marxist and Althusserian concept of reproduction of labour to the case of ‘Free Africans’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-308
Number of pages24
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Issue number2
Early online date11 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

This paper was financed by National Funds of the FCT – Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology within the project “UID/ECO/03182/2019”. This work also received funding provided by the CAPES – Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (Grant No. BEX 0579/12-2) and by the 2018 Margit F. and Hanns Martin Schoenfeld Scholarship from the Academy of Accounting Historians Section of the American Accounting Association. The authors acknowledge with gratitude the helpful comments of the Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal referees and for the constructive comments received from attendees at the ninth Accounting History International Conference, University of Verona, Italy, 6-8 September 2017.


  • Accounting History
  • Reproduction of labour power
  • ‘Free Africans’
  • Rio de Janeiro’s House of Correction
  • Brazil
  • Accounting history
  • Free Africans


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