Oh this is a wonderful book,. It’s the history of the Freemasons from the 17th or 18th century to modern times plus some folklore from misty ancient times. It’s easy to read often reading like a novel. Dickie, an expert on the Mafia, takes a light hand to the seriously challenging subject with its many levels and aspects but he gets it covered with the eyes of an historian.
The Craft: How Freemason’s Made the Modern World
By John Dickie
2020 / 490 pages
Read by Simon Slater 16h 35m
Rating: 9 / history
(Both read and listened)
It starts off wonderfully well with the 1st chapter including a hook-the-reader tale followed by a general outline of what will be discussed in the book, and a few appropriate line drawings. Originally, I was just going to listen, but you know me… I started wondering about graphics and footnotes and so on so I HAD to get the Kindle version … loving every minute of it. Then I was going to take a break at some point and read a quick crime novel. Oops – I was too immersed in what was happening to the brothers.
The book covers a wide range of subjects – first Dickie gives the reader a feel for what the Freemasons are, what they stood for in the 17th century at the beginning of their lodge system, where they came from, and their early development, halos, warts and all.
This is about a group which seems to have started in Scotland under King James VI, spread to England and on to France and the US mostly but then all over the world. The original group was from the architects and free-stone masons whose work included Anglican cathedrals.They got a huge boost from various stories reminiscent of the Inquisition.
Masonic Lodges were definitely a mainstream Protestant thing (excepting Lutherans until it got to Norway). Then the narrative slides over to the US from Revoloutionary and pre-Civil War days through the Civil War which was instrumental in their development. There were many Southern slave-owners in their ranks so Blacks had it rough enough without the virulently racist Southern establishment which was elected. (Blacks started their own lodge system of Masons which continues to this day.)
The text follows their history through the post-World War years (which seem made for them) right up to 2019 when the 21st century seems to have caught up with them in spite of their declining numbers. It’s still mainly about making business connections and right living as well as charitable efforts. The “secrets” are not exactly a big deal anymore but they served to hold the groups together in many ways for a long, long time through a lot of animosity and nonsense.
I got the Audible edition of this book on sale about a month ago. It’s been sitting here in my TBR file ever since because I’ve just not been in the mood although I gave it a try a couple times. Then one day it hit the mark. My spirit just needed a good history book. And this is one in so many ways. Unfortunately there are no source notes, but there is an annotated bibliography which is organized by chapter so if someone wants to find sources they are certainly pointed in the direction. And the book is 490 pages without the sometimes seemingly obligatory hundred+ pages of notes.
There were some topics I skimmed for info elsewhere:
I highly recommend this to any history-oriented reader – I’m going on to read Dickie’s Cosa Nostra before long.