Document Type


Publication Date


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Accounting History


telegraph, International Telecommunications Union, revenue allocation


The telegraph was the first practical use of electricity. It revolutionized commercial communication and facilitated the globalization of business. As the telegraph developed as a medium of international communication, regulation was needed to overcome administrative and technical issues, and, importantly, to establish accounting procedures for the distribution of the revenue to multiple national partners. This paper traces the evolution of revenue allocation models through three international organizations that ultimately lead to the creation of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 1932. The shifts in revenue allocation methods are consistent with a shift in focus of regulation from growth to efficiency over the rapid development of the telegraph network. The procedures put in place are still used in the regulation of international telecommunications but with continuing conflict over their effects. The rules developed in the regulation of the telegraph also set the stage for the rise of expertise in the maintenance of international order and the development of accounting as an epistemic community in international relations.


The final and definitive version of this article will appear in Accounting History SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved. © [Alan J. Richardson]