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Unpublished Paper

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Purpose The paper provides an introduction to the “analytic narratives project” in political science that argues for the use of formal models as a basis for narrative history. The approach is illustrated in an accounting context by reinterpreting the timeline of Scottish professionalization presented in Lee’s (2006) innovative counterfactual history.

Design/methodology/approach Analytic narratives use formal models to create expectations that can be contrasted with actual events. The use of formal models provides a bridge between theory and small sample research that allows theory to inform case analysis and case analysis to contribute to theory development. Lee’s (2006) timeline is reinterpreted as an analytic narrative based on labour market signaling.


The analytic narrative embeds Lee’s (2006) counterfactual history within a structured set of alternative outcomes. These outcomes are evaluated to identify which one would be preferred by all parties (a Nash equilibrium) and then backward induction is used to identify the choices necessary to reach that outcome. The analysis identifies some conditions necessary for actual events to unfold in the way they did.

Research limitations/implications

The application of analytic narratives to the timeline of development of the Scottish accounting profession suggests alternative research questions and provides an alternative counterfactual outcome to that suggested by Lee (2006).

Originality/value The paper advances the debate on the forms and uses of narrative in historical research by introducing and illustrating an important innovation.

Key words: historiography, analytic narratives, counterfactual history.