An excerpt from an OUPblog article published on 30th June 2017, written by Andreas Önnerfors, author of Freemasonry: A Very Short Introduction.
"Around midsummer 1717, the first masonic Grand lodge is said to have been created in London. Although the event is not documented in any primary sources, Freemasons across the globe – and there are between 2 and 3 millions of them – celebrate this tercentenary with a host of special events: concerts, exhibitions, and parades. But what role has the fraternity – that in our day also includes a growing number of women – played in history? Who were the men (and women) attracted by secrecy, initiation, and symbolism? Are the masonic lodges precursors of modern civil society?
Our view of freemasonry oscillates between two typical positions: idealization and distrust. Pierre Bezukhov, the hero of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869) joins a masonic lodge in St Petersburg which marks a profound transformation. Pierre develops an ethos of philanthropy and global consciousness and there is no doubt that Tolstoy viewed the brotherhood as a positive force in history, which of course most of masonic practitioners have done since its inception...."
Discover more: Read the rest of the article on the OUPblog.