The 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century were particularly important for the development of accounting theory. Various accounting historians have emphasized the key role of Italian scholars during this period (Amaduzzi 2001; Bariola 1897; Ceccherelli 1915; Luchini 1898; Melis 1950). One of the most important of these scholars was Fabio Besta. This paper presents both a biography of Fabio Besta and a discussion of his contributions to accounting thought. There are two primary motivations for this paper; namely (1) to contribute to the biographical strand of accounting history research, and (2) to develop a better understanding of the history of public sector/state accounting. Besta is acknowledged as one of the most important Italian scholars of the accounting discipline. His work, focusing on public administration, is remarkable for its clarity and depth, and it is of particular interest today for researchers of business and management, especially with regard to those aspects that differentiate private sector from public administration. Over a century after his death, Besta's work continues to be of great interest. In fact, the debate concerning accounting methods in the public sector has not yet been completely resolved, with the process of change from cash-based to accrual-based accounting still taking place in many countries.

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