In her excellent essay, The Past and Future of Masonic Scholarship, the historian Margaret C. Jacob writes "The professionalization of Masonic scholarship is now happening." Surprisingly, academic interest in Freemasonry and fraternalism is a relatively recent phenomenon, especially in the United States, but the growing interest within academia can be seen in a recent international conference devoted to the history of Freemasonry, a new academic journal, and a number of theses and dissertations written during the past few years.
The International Conference on the History of Freemasonry, a scholarly conference with participants delivering papers on diverse topics that are all related to the history of Freemasonry, was first held in Edinburgh, Scotland in May 2007. Because of its initial success, a second conference is being held in Edingburgh in May 2009. (And, yes, there's a third one scheduled already: the 2011 conference will be held outside of Scotland for the first time, at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA.)
We also recently learned about a new scholarly periodical devoted to the study of Freemasonry and fraternalism that will publish its first issue in Spring 2009. The Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism is another great example of the growing interest in the academic study of Freemasonry and fraternalism. The Journal's editor is Andreas Önnerfors, director of the University of Sheffield's Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism. The University of Sheffield (which is located in the UK) offers a Master's degree in the history of Freemasonry and fraternalism.
Some of the more scholarly books on Freemasonry that have been published during the past ten years started life as Ph.D dissertations. Jessica Harland-Jacobs's 2007 book Builders of Empire: Freemasonry and British Imperialism, 1717-1927 [17.942 .H37 2007] and William D. Moore's 2006 book Masonic Temples: Freemasonry, Ritual Architecture, and Masculine Archetypes [52 .M825 2006] are just two recent examples of this.
Our library and archives collections are often used by scholars pursuing research in Freemasonry and fraternalism. One such example is Harriet Wain McBride's use of our collection of regalia supply catalogs for her 2000 doctoral dissertation Fraternal Regalia in America, 1865 to 1918: Dressing the Lodges; Clothing the Brotherhood [21 .M33 2000].
A recent search of the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses database reveals that research into Freemasonry and fraternalism within North American universities is quite strong. While we hope to see some of these dissertations eventually end up as books published by a university press, we'll be selectively purchasing some of these dissertations and theses in the coming months to strengthen our collection of current, academic scholarship in the field of Freemasonry and fraternalism.
A selection of dissertations and theses on Freemasonry and fraternalism from North American universities since 2001 (listed chronologically)
"Spreading the light": European Freemasonry and Russia in the Eighteenth Century
by Bayer, Natalie, Ph.D., Rice University, 2007, 450 pages [available as a free download here, as part of Rice University's Digital Scholarship Archive]
Battling a Trojan Horse: The Ordre de Jacques Cartier and the Knights of Columbus, 1917--1965
by Trepanier, James, M.A., University of Ottawa (Canada), 2007, 186 pages
The Perspectives and Experiences Created by Mandated Change on the Volunteers Within a Fraternal Benefit Organization: A Phenomenological Case Study
by Bereson, Arnold L., Ph.D., Capella University, 2006, 192 pages
Prince Hall Freemasonry: The Other Invisible Institution of the Black Community
by Dunbar, Paul Lawrence, Sr., M.A., University of North Texas, 2006, 88 pages
Freemasons of Color: Prince Hall, Revolutionary Black Boston, and the Origins of Black Freemasonry, 1770--1807
by Sesay, Chernoh Momodu, Jr., Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2006, 251 pages
An Antimasonic Moment: Antimasonry in Antebellum America, 1826--1832
by Beaupre, Myles, M.A., University of New Brunswick (Canada), 2005, 100 pages
"A system of morality veiled in allegory": The Private Rituals and Public Performances of Freemasons in Winnipeg, 1864--1900
by Covernton, Gillian, M.A., University of Manitoba (Canada), 2005, 107 pages
We Are All Brothers: Secret Fraternal Organizations and the Transformation of the White Male Political Culture in Antebellum Virginia
by Pflugrad-Jackisch, Ami, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2005, 204 pages
The Architecture of Joseph Michael Gandy (1771--1843) and Sir John Soane (1753--1837): An Exploration into the Masonic and Occult Imagination of the Late Enlightenment
by Galvin, Terrance Gerard, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2003, 436 pages
Square and Compass: Freemasonry's Tools for Constructing a Global Civil Society
by Rasoletti, Judith, Ph.D., Florida International University, 2003, 251 pages
Measuring the Charismatic Leadership Attributes of the Grand Exalted Ruler of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World, a Non-profit Fraternal Organization of Color
by Coplin, Peggy J., D.P.A., Nova Southeastern University, 2002, 140 pages
Constructing the "Brother": Freemasonry, Empire, and Nationalism in India, 1840--1925
by Fozdar, Vahid Jalil, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2001, 533 pages
The Incommunicable Secret or the Encountered Experience: Mystery, Ritual, Freemasonry in 18th-Century French Literature
by Palfi, Agnes Gyorgyi, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2001, 341 pages
"The Freemasonry of the Race": The Cultural Politics of Ritual, Race, and Place in Postemancipation Virginia
by Walker, Corey David Bazemore, Ph.D., The College of William and Mary, 2001, 356 pages