Conceiving of accounting as a social practice, this study examines the role of accounting practices in facilitating the development process. The period chosen was characterized by political, social, and economic events that would lead to Milan becoming the financial capital of Italy. These events similarly influenced the development of the Monte di Pietà, a type of charitable organization originating in Italy that ultimately, through a law passed in 1898, became the country’s first credit institution. The analysis carried out on accounting practices of the Monte di Pietà of Milan shows, in particular, how the functioning of the institute completely changed after the Napoleonic isolation. Furthermore, the considerable attention paid to producing detailed reports induced virtuous behaviour among the members of the organization that was not required by national regulatory provisions. In this sense, accounting was not only an instrument shaped by the context in which it was inserted, but it was also an instrument that shaped company functioning. The Monte, a charitable institution at the time actually functioned as a credit institution, even before legislative intervention. The accounting practices used, well above the legislative obligations, induced virtuous behaviours among the members of the organization. In other words, the Monte’s change into a credit institution was not the result of a path originated by legislative provision but rather from the social behaviour of its members, even by the means of accounting practices.
Keywords: Banking function, credit institution, Monti di Pietà, accounting practices, Napoleonic period, social practice.