"A classic in the field."—American Historical Review
"Highly recommended."—ChoiceCan the ancestry of freemasonry really be traced back to the Knights Templar? Is the image of the eye in a triangle on the back of the dollar bill one of its cryptic signs? Is there a conspiracy that stretches through centuries and generations to align this shadow organization and its secret rituals to world governments and religions? Myths persist and abound about the freemasons, Margaret C. Jacob notes. But what are their origins? How has an early modern organization of bricklayers and stonemasons aroused so much public interest? In The Origins of Freemasonry, Jacob throws back the veil from a secret society that turns out not to have been very secret at all.
"When inviting us to go on a journey to the Origins of Freemasonry, Margaret C. Jacob does not take us towards the mysterious deserts of the East or the dark chapels of the Knights Templar. But, once again, she demonstrates that real history is often much more fascinating than the most extravagant fictions."—Roger Dachez, President, Masonic Institute of France
What factors contributed to the extraordinarily rapid spread of freemasonry over the course of the eighteenth century, and why were so many of the era's most influential figures drawn to it? Using material from the archives of leading masonic libraries in Europe, Jacob examines masonic almanacs and pocket diaries to get closer to what living as a freemason might have meant on a daily basis. She explores the persistent connections between masons and nascent democratic movements, as each lodge set up a polity where an individual's standing was meant to be based on merit, rather than on birth or wealth, and she demonstrates, beyond any doubt, how active a role women played in the masonic movement.
Margaret C. Jacob is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of many books, including Strangers Nowhere in the World: The Rise of Cosmopolitanism in Early Modern Europe, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press, as well as The Enlightenment: A Brief History with Selected Texts and Scientific Culture and the Making of the Industrial West.