2010 Lecture – Perceptions of Freemasonry from the 18th Century to the Internet

Dr. Andreas Önnerfors
Director – Centre for Research into Freemasonry – University of Sheffield

Dr. Andreas ÖnnerforsAndreas Önnerfors was raised in Germany in a Swedish-German family. After a period of extensive travel and some initial studies, he served in the Swedish Army between 1993 and 1996, interrupted by studies in History of Sciences and Ideas. In 1997 he took up his undergraduate studies in the History of Sciences and Ideas at the University of Lund in Sweden where he completed his BA and MA, starting his PhD training in 1999. In 2000, he also was admitted to a German PhD scheme at the University of Greifswald at the Baltic shore. Since then, Andreas has undertaken postdoctoral research on Swedish 18th Century Freemasonry and has taught courses mainly within European Studies. He also has a large interest in press history and the history of sciences. Önnerfors has published about 40 papers and articles in various languages, a majority of them on Freemasonry.

Perceptions of Freemasonry from the 18th Century to the Internet

Since its modern establishment in urban London of the late 1710s, Freemasonry was covered extensively in the press. One of the first steps of the fraternity was to publish its mythological history and charges, the famous Constitutions of Anderson of 1723. Books and pamphlets attacking and defending Freemasonry almost immediately appeared on the market. This dynamics accelerated in connection with events such as the papal condemnations of Freemasonry and peaked early around the years of the French revolution. Since then, anti-Masonry in different colors on the spectrum has influenced the image of Freemasonry both in political ideologies, conspiracy theories of various kind, as much as in popular culture as recently demonstrated by Dan Brown’s new novel The Lost Key. Freemasonry itself has reacted modestly upon this development of an image over time with few successful exceptions that also will be addressed by the lecture. The presence of a seemingly secret society in media begs also the question how private Freemasonry in reality was and is. It is legitimate to ask if public perceptions of Freemasonry not even constitute a major element of the impact of Freemasonry upon society itself. This lecture aims at to map the main lines of these perceptions from the first press articles to the presence of Freemasonry in the main media of the twenty-first century, the Internet.

For Dr. Andreas Önnerfors’ slide presentation, please click here.

To see the poster for this event, please click here.

For David Sharron’s presentation on the development of the Masonic Book Collection in the Special Collections and Archives in the James A. Gibson Library click here. 


Please click thumbnails to view photos.