Freemasonry: A Very Short Introduction
Freemasonry is one of the oldest and most widespread voluntary organisations in the world. Over the course of three centuries men (and women) have organized themselves socially and voluntarily under its name. With a strong sense of liberation, moral enlightenment, cosmopolitan openness and forward-looking philanthropy, freemasonry has attracted some of the sharpest minds in history and has created a strong platform for nascent civil societies across the globe. With the secrecy of internally communicated knowledge, the clandestine character of organization, and the enactment of rituals and the elaborate use of symbols, freemasonry has also opened up feelings of distrust, as well as allegations of secretiveness and conspiracy.
This Very Short Introduction introduces the inner activities of freemasonry, and the rituals, symbols and practices. Looking at the development of the organizational structure of masonry from the local to the global level, Andreas Önnerfors considers perceptions of freemasonry from the outside world, and navigates through the prevalent fictions and conspiracy theories. He also discusses how freemasonry has from its outset struggled with issues of exclusion based upon gender, race and religion, despite promoting tolerant openness and inclusion. Finally Önnerfors shines a light on the rarely discussed but highly compelling history of female agency in masonic and para-masonic orders.
ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Reviews of the Book:
Well-written, interesting, and informative. (Jorge Luis Romeu, REHMLAC+. Revista de Historia de la Masonería)
An engrossing, lucid and authoritative interpretation of a social and cultural phenomenon which has been a source of widespread fascination for over 300 years. International in scope and packed with compelling vignettes, this book clearly and engagingly explains every aspect of freemasonry, including its origins, secret rituals, womens freemasonry and anti-masonic conspiracy theories. (Andrew Prescott, University of Glasgow)
Freemasonry has occupied a liminal place in modern historiography. Often approached by conspiracy theorists or true believers, it has finally been rescued by a new generation of scholars. This book offers the latest scholarship and a clear understanding of the historical significance of freemasonry as well as a careful treatment of its guild origins. (Margaret C. Jacob)