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Gönderen Konu: Behind the Square: Spatial Analysis and Research into Freemasonry  (Okunma sayısı 2363 defa)

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Behind the Square: Spatial Analysis and Research into Freemasonry

A Lecture by Andrew Prescott of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry, University of Sheffield. Presented at the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative Conference, British Library, 27 June 2000.

Despite the exciting new technical possibilities that have recently become available to humanities scholars, we are still at an early and tentative stage in our exploration of the possibilities of humanities computing. For many years, it has been predicted that new technologies will deliver a paradigm shift in humanities research, but, despite the many outstanding projects currently under way, such a transformation still often seems a distant prospect. We are only just reaching the stage where we can contemplate using new technologies to move forward to new orders of humanities scholarship. As an increasing number of electronic corpora become available, we will begin to formulate questions which could not have been conceived through the use of conventional media. At present, the questions with which our research is concerned are usually generated by conventional methodologies, even when we use new technologies in trying to answer them. Digital and networking technologies will only start profoundly to transform humanities research when they help shape the research agenda at the very beginning, when the fundamental problems to be addressed by a particular project are formulated.

To illustrate the point, I would like to talk about what is for me a completely new area of investigation I am currently developing within the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. Although I have been involved in a number of electronic projects in completely different fields, it is striking how, in appraising a completely new area of research, one's initial analysis is nowadays fundamentally shaped by the new electronic tools that are available. This does not just affect the methods of investigation that will be used. I believe it will also affect the way in which the research is presented and the methods by which the results of the research are synthesised.

In 1969, the distinguished Oxford historian, J. M. Roberts, published an article in the English Historical Review called 'Freemasonry: Possibilities of a Neglected Topic'. Roberts pointed out that freemasonry began in Britain, and that the first grand lodge was established in England in 1717. From England, it rapidly spread through Europe, and by 1789 there were perhaps 100,000 masons in Europe. Roberts emphasised that, despite the fact that freemasonry is one of the social movements of British origin which has had the biggest international impact, it has been largely ignored by professional historians in Britain. This contrasts with, say, France or Holland where freemasonry has been the subject of elaborate scholarly investigation. Because of the neglect of this field by British historians, it has been dominated by, on the one hand, anti-masonic conspiracy theorists, and, on the other, by masonic antiquarians investigating details of ritual or bureaucratic development with no sense of broader historical context.

Yet one look at a photograph like this, which shows Edward VII, one of the most active and influential English Grand Masters, his brother, the Duke of Connaught and his son, the Duke of Clarence, in their masonic regalia, suggests how freemasonry in deeply embedded in British life and is a subject deserving of thorough historical investigation. As Roberts forcefully puts it, 'There must surely be something of sociological interest in an institution whose English Grand Masters have since 1721 always been noblemen and have included seven princes of the blood, while elsewhere the craft has been persecuted by the Nazis, condemned by Papal Bulls and denounced by Comintern'.

Since Roberts wrote, the area has received more attention from professional historians. David Stevenson has investigated the emergence from the old craft gilds of something recognisably akin to modern speculative freemasonry in the Scotland of James VI. Stevenson became the first non-mason to address the Quatuor Coronati lodge, the English masonic lodge devoted to investigating masonic history. Margaret Jacob has investigated the links between freemasonry and the Enlightenment. James Steven Curl has examined the influence of freemasonry on eighteenth-century art and architecture. Most recently, Peter Clark has produced a magisterial study placing freemasonry in the context of the development of clubs and societies as the major vehicles of social interaction in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. However, despite the appearance of these important studies, it still seems as if the surface of British masonic history has barely been scratched.

This is partly because the history of freemasonry is such a rich and diverse field that it is very difficult to develop a research programme that does justice to all the aspects of the subject. Just consider the extraordinary range of people who have been freemasons, from authors like Alexander Pope, Edmund Burke, Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Arthur Conan Doyle, and a varied array of statesmen including Washington, Garibaldi, Ataturk and Churchill, to musicians as diverse as Haydn, Sibelius and Duke Ellington, and actors from David Garrick to Peter Sellers.

Nor is the list an exclusively male one: the theosophist and social reformer Annie Besant, who you can see here in her masonic regalia, was active in promoting co-masonry, which admitted women, in Britain. Freemasonry would have meant different things to each of these people, and likewise each individual reflects a different strand in masonic history. Such a diverse list of names emphasises the difficulty in assessing the cultural impact of freemasonry. For example, Sibelius's involvement in freemasonry is interesting not so much in respect of his music but more because he was a prominent Finnish nationalist, and freemasonry, despite its internationalist philosophy, has been closely connected with nationalist movements in Europe and America.

Freemasonry is intertwined with many prominent themes of British history over the past three hundred years. Through regimental lodges, freemasonry spread rapidly through the British Empire, and became, with organised sports and gothic architecture, one of the cultural forces which bound together the British Empire, as is apparent from this picture of a lodge in Lagos in 1900. Freemasonry is important in considering the relationship between the English and the celtic nations in Britain. The way in which the Scottish contribution to the development of freemasonry has been underplayeed by masonic historians provides a good illustration of Anglocentrism in social history. Many of the so-called Welsh national traditions, such as the druidic component of the eistedffod, seem to have been influenced by masonic practice. The relationship between freemasonry and sectarianism in Scotland and Ireland seems evident, but has been little investigated. The organisational structure of freemasonry profoundly influenced friendly societies and trade unions, and until the First World War, masonic symbols were often to be seen on trade union banners. At the other end of the social spectrum, freemasonry, with the school, college and club, became one of the bastions of male exclusivity in British society. Freemasonry is at the heart of much modern British social history, but its very diversity and all-pervasiveness makes it an elusive historical subject.

How can one come to terms with such a vast and sprawling subject? Spatial techniques of the kind that ECAI are pioneering are singularly appropriate to the study of freemasonry, since the symbolism of freemasonry is permeated with ideas of space. Indeed, freemasonry might be viewed at one level as a religion of geometry and space. Drawing on the craft lore developed by medieval masons, speculative masonry sees geometry as the queen of sciences. The symbolism of freemasonry is permeated by the geometrical tools familiar to the medieval mason, the dividers, the square, and the plumb line, as is apparent from these seal of freemason's lodges in Yorkshire. When the craft gilds began to admit members who were not actually masons, a process which eventually gave rise to modern freemasonry, they sought out those who possessed geometrical knowledge, such as military engineers and cartographers. Many famous early cartographers, such as the Dutchman Bernard Picart, were closely involved with freemasonry.

Ideas of space are also important in understanding masonic organisation. The lodge was originally the place where medieval masons lived while working on a particular building. The lodge system was devised to cope with the needs of an itinerant profession. The use of secret passwords was intended as a means by which travelling craftsmen could recognise each other. The lodge system in modern freemasonry has likewise proved attractive to those in travelling professions, who can be assuired of a welcome by the local lodge wherever they are. For example, the travelling showmen who run fairgrounds found freemasonry a particularly useful way of making local contact. Showmen are still active in freemasonry, and the structure of the Showman's Guild is based on masonic forms. Similar features doubtless help explain the popularity of masonic forms of organisation as a structure for friendly societies and trade unions.

But before investigating the spatial structure of freemasonry, there is in essential preliminary - in J. M. Roberts's words, 'more counting'. As such, this represents a methodologically conventional response, but now of course the computer offers more than just rapid counting and sorting. Spatial analysis tools facilitate the investigation of the kind of complex cultural relationships which characterise the history of freemasonry and which are otherwise difficult to analyse.

Two kinds of database would provide the most useful starting points: one giving details of lodges and the other recording membership. This information is readily available. Lists of authorised lodges have been maintained by Grand Lodge since the earliest times. The engraver John Pine, a mason and friend of William Hogarth, produced a series of beautiful engraved lodge lists which are shown (in a very fanciful setting) here. In 1895, John Lane, a mason from Torquay, published the definitive edition of his Masonic Records, which used Pine's lists and other sources to provide a definitive record of the more than four thousand lodges which were then in existence. Lane itemises the date when the lodge was created, places where it met, and when lodges were disbanded. Listings of the five thousand or so lodges which have been created since 1895 are readily available in such publications as the Masonic Year Book.

The possibilities opened up by Lane's work are apparent from Peter Clark's recent book, which uses Lane to provide maps showing the distribution of masonic lodges in 1740, 1778 and 1800. These point to some interesting features about the growth of freemasonry at that time, such as the way in which it was very popular in south-west England and East Anglia but much less well regarded in the West Midlands. Clark also indicates how the rival grand lodge, known as the Ancients, thought to be less elitist, had a particular appeal in the industrial north.

Clark's maps whet the appetite for much more. His work ends in 1800 and, in order to understand how freemasonry bolstered social hierarchies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it would be desirable to extend Clark's work into those centuries. The process by which freemasonry spread to Europe remains in many respects mysterious, and similar mapping would help clarify this issue. This kind of visualisation is often the only way to come to terms with the complex history of freemasonry abroad. For example, the cross-currents in Jamaica between Spanish, English, Scottish and French freemasonry, and its interconnection with revolutionary and nationalist movements in Latin and Central America, seem to cry out for the application of such a tool.

The main limitation of the three maps provided by Clark is that they are separated by gaps of more than twenty years. For some types of investigation, it is essential to examine changes in lodge distribution on a year by year basis. For example, it has been suggested that the French Revolution led to a growth in masonic lodges in Wales. Clark's maps suggest some growth in the number of Welsh masonic lodges between 1778 and 1800, but a year by year analysis is necessary to establish whether this might be related to events in France.

The most important facility electronic mapping would offer in analysing data such as this is the possibility of juxtaposition with other data. Thus, Margaret Jacob has pointed out that freemasons in Derbyshire sometimes shared meeting places with radical and democratic groups at the time of the French Revolution. Comparative mapping of masonic meeting places and those of known radical groups would help establish whether this coincidence is important and, if so, whether it is apparent in other areas apart from Derbyshire. Likewise, the relationship between freemasonry and friendly societies has already been mentioned, and again comparative mapping provides a very effective way of investigating this relationship.

However, the value of a GIS package of lodges would go beyond analysis of issues such as these. It is an area where one would certainly want to develop the sort of bibliographical,image and other links of the sort that John Corrigan and Trevor Harris were describing yesterday. The bibliography of freemasonry is huge, but much of it is dross, and the difficulty of sorting the wheat from the chaff is one of the main difficulties facing the researcher into freemasonry. For social history, the most interesting material is local lodge histories. A GIS package linking lodge information to bibliographical information about the lodge, information about lodge records and perhaps even information about the survival of such artefacts as this masonic banner from Wigan would enable the researcher to come to terms with the complex cross-connections of masonic history at the same time both more evident and more manageable.

Although freemasonry is often - wrongly - seen as a secret society, ample data is available in the public domain on its membership. This important point has been grasped by amateur family historians but not generally by the professionals. Prior to 1799, lodges made occasional returns of membership to the Grand Lodge. From 1799 to 1967, under the Unlawful Societies Act, lodges were required to certify details of their membership, giving names, place of residence and occupation, to the clerk of the peace. These returns are generally preserved in county record offices. They provide a good basis for a compendious database of freemasons in Britain for the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries. Even at the very basic level of data given in the returns to the clerk of the peace, one could for example compare the social profile of lodges in different areas and explore how external events, such as the two world wars and the rise of anti-masonic movements, affected the membership of freemasonry.

In approaching the history of freemasonry, then, the use of spatial and temporal analysis tools potentially enables us not only to deal with large amounts of data but helps us comes to terms with a subject which is extremely complex and wide-ranging in its cultural and social connections. Indeed, it may point the way towards new forms of historical synthesis. In the 1970s, interpretations of British social history were dominated by class: the formation of a working class consciousness at the time of the French Revolution, the alliance between the aristocracy and the middle class at the time of the Reform Act, and the emergence of new forms of working class politics as a reaction to this. However, as historians have investigated other forms of social relationship and have emphasised that man (and woman) is not formed by economic relations alone, British social history has come to be seen as a welter of different forms of social relationship. Consequently a number of historians, such as David Cannadine, have complained that our view of modern social history has become effectively atomised, and have sought to develop new narratives to replace the old class-dominated view. But these new interpretations have failed to command a general consensus. Whether British social history is seen as driven primarily by class or by other forms of association, it is evident that freemasonry is of central importance. In making sense of freemasonry, it is clear that spatial and temporal visualisation tools can be enormously helpful. One wonders whether this holds true for British social history as a whole - that our understanding of social history has now burst beyond the confines of the history book and to create a new synthesis we need new visualisation tools of the sort that the projects in the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative are pioneering.
- Sahsima ozel mesaj atmadan once Yonetim Hiyerarsisini izleyerek ilgili yoneticiler ile gorusunuz.
- Masonluk hakkinda ozel mesaj ile bilgi, yardim ve destek sunulmamaktadir.
- Sorunuz ve mesajiniz hangi konuda ise o konudan sorumlu gorevli yada yonetici ile gorusunuz. Sahsim, butun cabalarinizdan sonra gorusmeniz gereken en son kisi olmalidir.
- Sadece hicbir yoneticinin cozemedigi yada forumda asla yazamayacaginiz cok ozel ve onemli konularda sahsima basvurmalisiniz.
- Masonluk ve Masonlar hakkinda bilgi almak ve en onemlisi kisisel yardim konularinda tarafima dogrudan ozel mesaj gonderenler cezalandirilacaktir. Bu konular hakkinda gerekli aciklama forum kurallari ve uyelik sozlesmesinde yeterince acik belirtilmsitir.


 

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