For centuries, the importance of financial accounting has been well understood. Essential to building businesses, states, and even empires, accounting has also helped leaders measure their power and craft their policies. When practiced poorly or neglected, accounting has contributed to cycles of destruction, as the 2008 financial crisis has made all too clear. In The Reckoning, award-winning historian Jacob Soll shows how the use and misuse of financial bookkeeping has determined the fate of entire societies. In the right hands, accounting has created social stability, good governance, and economic prosperity. In the wrong hands, good accounting practices have often been subverted, with disastrous results ranging from financial losses and debt to complete economic collapse. From the Medici bankers to the director of finances under Louis XVI, from the Industrial Revolution to the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Recession, The Reckoning demonstrates that civilizations are only as strong as their bookkeepers.