Spies, debt and the well-spent penny: accounting and the Lisle agricultural estates 1533–1540

Frances Miley, Andrew READ

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The Lisle family was one of the wealthiest families in England during the early Tudor period. Its wealth came primarily from agricultural estates. This research examines the family’s accounting during the period 1533–1540. We examine the family’s use of correspondence to an extensive network of spies, called privy friends, to secure allegiances, obtain information and help the family increase its agricultural landholdings. We also examine the use of correspondence to facilitate cash flow through strategies to manage indebtedness. While the family’s agricultural holdings ensured its continuing wealth, the management of indebtedness, gifts and payments to privy friends were important for wealth accumulation. The strategies used by the Lisle family were responses to a turbulent, uncertain and ever-shifting political environment. We conclude that Tudor manorial estate accounting systems included both financial accounts and correspondence and that both must be considered when analysing the role of accounting information in single-entry accounting systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-105
Number of pages23
JournalAccounting History Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016


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