The annual report is conventionally understood as a mechanism through which those external to an entity receive information about its internal workings as a basis for holding to account those responsible for its stewardship. By contrast the current study examines the role of the annual report as an instrument for rendering external parties visible and accountable to the organisation, their local communities and to themselves. The paper analyses the ways in which the managers of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (ERI), an elite voluntary hospital, utilised the disclosure of the names of charitable givers in its annual reports to encourage philanthropic behaviour during the nineteenth century. It is argued that the financiers of the Infirmary were the principal subjects of the annual report and were made accountable through it. As changing economic and demographic circumstances increased pressure on hospital resources, managers of the ERI structured the presentation of data in the annual report in ways designed to encourage individuals and certain groups to question the sufficiency of their benevolence. The study reveals that the annual report has the potential to project accountability onto the self in multi-directional ways, not merely into the interior of the organisation, but also into those exterior social spaces surrounding it.
- annual report
- nineteenth century