This study investigates the accounting practices of the railroad companies operating in the Papal States (Italy) between 1846 and 1870. The Papal States’ agreements, edicts, and laws and the railroad companies’ statutes, financial statements, meeting proceedings, auditors’ reports, and management reports are the primary sources we consulted for our historical analysis. By reviewing these documents, the role played by accounting in managing the relationship between directors and shareholders emerged. This study offers two contributions to international literature on accounting history. First, it sheds light on the financial reporting practices in Italian railroad companies and second, it investigates how accounting was used to manage the relationships between railroad companies, their shareholders, and the Papal government.
Keywords: Railroad companies, 19th century, Papal States, financial statements, capital market.