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The Foundations of Modern Freemasonry

The Grand Architects – Political Change and the Scientific Enlightenment, 1714–1740

Revised Second Edition

Richard ('Ric) Berman holds an MA in Economics from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in History from the University of Exeter. He is a past Senior Visiting Researcher at the MEHRC at the University of Oxford, and a past Research Fellow at Oxford Brookes University. A sister book, Schism, was published in 2013; a second companion volume – Loyalists & Malcontents – is currently being completed

Following the appointment of its first aristocratic Grand Masters in the 1720s and in the wake of its connections to the scientific Enlightenment, ‘Free and Accepted’ Masonry rapidly became part of Britain’s national profile and the largest and most influential of Britain’s extensive clubs and societies. The organisation did not evolve naturally from the mediaeval guilds and religious orders that pre-dated it, but was reconfigured radically by a largely self-appointed inner core, becoming a vehicle for the expression of their political and religious views. It also championed scientific Enlightenment concepts and attracted an aspirational membership from the upper middling and gentry.

Through an examination of new and previously unexplored primary documentation, the book contributes to an understanding of contemporary English political and social culture and explores how Freemasonry became a mechanism that promoted the interests of the Hanoverian establishment and connected élite metropolitan and provincial figures. Social networks centred on the aristocracy, parliament, the learned and professional societies, and the magistracy, are explored, and key individuals instrumental in spreading the Masonic message evaluated.

Foundations, and Schism (Sussex Academic, 2013), have been described as ‘the most important on English Freemasonry published in recent times’ and providing ‘a precise, social context for the invention of English Freemasonry’. Berman’s analysis throws a new and original light on the formation and development of what rapidly became a national and international phenomenon

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-479-6
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $79.50
Release Date: December 2011
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-506-9
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $39.95
Release Date: December 2011
2nd revised pbk edition ISBN: 978-1-84519-698-1
2nd revised pbk edition Price: £25.00 / $39.95
Release Date: December 2014
Page Extent / Format: 320 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: Yes




One: English Freemasonry before the Formation of Grand Lodge

Two: John Theophilus Desaguliers: Homo Masonicus

Three: Grand Lodge: The Inner Workings

Four: The Professional Nexus

Five: The Rise of the First Noble Grand Masters

Six: ‘Through the paths of heavenly science’

Seven: Conclusion



Electronic Reading and Research

Selected Bibliography

The transformation of English Freemasonry after the foundation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 was especially marked by the (largely nominal) leadership of young pro-Hanoverian Whig aristocrats who transformed Freemasonry into an important component of the economic, scientific, social, and political changes of the 18th century. Freemasonry rapidly became an important facet of the upper reaches of English society, and Berman (Oxford) traces the role these aristocratic architects played in the formation of what quickly became the most prominent and socially elite fraternal order of the modern era. There were important connections between Freemasonry and the judiciary, the Royal Society, and other learned and professional societies. Berman provides a useful introduction to these key figures, as well as a series of valuable appendixes, giving readers the Grand Officers of the Grand Lodge of England, excerpts fromthe Masonic 1723 Constitutions, a list of the various military lodges, and an inventory of the Masonic membership of selected professional societies. Although its origins as a doctoral thesisare all too clear, this remains a valuable work for serious Masonic historians. Recommended.

Review by Dr Bob James, Newcastle, UK, of Foundations of Modern Freemasonry
and Schism – The Battle that Forged Freemasonry

These two books, in my opinion, are the most important on English freemasonry published recent times.

The first introduces the crucial networking which produced the first buzz of interest in freemasonry in 1720s London. The second describes the battle between London’s established Grand Lodge, the ‘Moderns’, and the lower middling, largely Irish, ‘Antients.’
... In Foundations, Berman located new material showing the predominance of magistrates in Masonry’s most sociable and therefore most influential lodges and the bridge freemasonry provided between Newtonian theory and its application. Masonic lectures and demonstrations of ‘natural philosophy’ fed directly into the engineering and hydraulic schemes driving the industrial revolution and their popularity enhanced freemasonry’s image as THE society for the upwardly mobile.
... In Berman’s view, English freemasonry was a deliberate creation of a few members of the Horn Tavern able to convince leading politicians and aristocrats to join. The argument has profoundly political and religious implications and in highlighting them Berman has done a great service to scholars of Masonry. In showing how the organisation changed soon after it began, was challenged and forced to reform he has ensured that assertions that freemasonry was somehow immutable can no longer be made.
... Where Berman’s first volume was centred on personalities and their unique histories, his second concerns the collective experiences of two distinct social groups. He brings ‘the Antients’ to life, delves into their occupations, communities and grievances against the original Grand Lodge.
... Berman reports the evidence that suggests that Antient freemasonry was an association of friends, neighbours and co-workers, ‘the large majority of whom lived and laboured’ close to one another. From the middling and lower classes, these men were concerned with the financial security fraternalism could offer and formed recognisable ‘mutual benefit funds’.
... The two volumes are extremely well produced and both are credits to their publishers and their printers. But the warmest appreciation must go to the researcher and author, Ric Berman, in providing a precise, social context for the invention of English Freemasonry.

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