Freemasonry: The World’s First Global Social Network
In the 1700s, Masonic lodges and freemasons could be found from the East Indies to the West Indies to the Indian Country of the North American frontier, all across Europe, and throughout the farthest flung colonial possessions of the British, French, and Dutch empires. By the end of the century it had become an important organizing tool and intellectual force in the African Atlantic diaspora as well. Fremasonry was an emergent, self-created social movement of the 18th century Englightenment which boasted its own faux history, republican ideology, international diplomacy, meta-economy, and extensive organizational structures. Within a few decades of the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 there were Masonic lodges and grand lodges throughout the Americas, the Caribbean, India and in some parts of Africa. Ideologically and socially, freemasonry connected men across political, ethnic, racial, religions and class borders. It served as a vital fraternal link in the lives of Atlantic seafarers, soldiers, planters and craftsmen and formed a vast network of overlapping networks which greatly impacted social and commercial relations both within and between far flung communities in every corner of the global in which European culture had penetrated.
This panel will seek to explore the role of freemasonry as an international phenomenon, elucidating the nature and implications of the overlapping social, commercial and intellectual networks created by freemasons, white and Black, on both sides of the Atlantic.