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Freemasonry and Civil Society in 19th Century Latin America (History 191E with Prof. Maria Vazquez-Semadini)

Freemasonry was a key piece in the construction of nation states in Latin America. Unlike in other countries, Latin American Freemasons and Freemasonry were directly involved in government and in politics during the nineteenth century. In this course we will discuss the cultural, political, social and religious issues surrounding Freemasonry within the specific historical contexts of Spanish and Portuguese empires and in the formation of the Latin American Nations. We will analyze how, at the same time, Freemasonry contributed to the formation of a public sphere and to the construction of the new political systems; and how Freemasons, among other politicians and intellectuals, fought to consolidate secular states in Catholic countries. In this sense, the study of Freemasonry will be a way to understand political systems, cultural traditions and intellectual developments in the history of Latin America during 19th century.

19th Century Freemasonry in the United States and Mexico (History 161 with Prof. Maria Vazquez-Semadini)

In this course we will concentrate on the cultural, political and social issues surrounding Freemasonry as it developed in New Spain/Mexico and in the North American Colonies/United States from the early eighteenth century to the late nineteenth century. We will emphasize the role played by Freemasonry in the formation of republican governments, as well as in its participation in the creation of Civil Society, in the development of a republican and democratic political language and in the acceptance or rejection of a political party system.

The Origins of Freemasonry in the Radical Thought of Early Modern Europe (History 97C with prof. Margaret Jacob)

In this course we will look at the origins of Freemasonry in the radical thought of early modern Europe, and the birth of Freemasonry in the Enlightenment. For many historians, the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century marks a decisive break within the Western intellectual tradition. But what was so revolutionary about the Scientific Revolution? One answer is that it inaugurated what we might call, “the mechanization of the world.” In other words, a new mechanical philosophy, which overthrew the traditional Aristotelian one, came to dominate the intellectual sphere. Central to this new science was the belief that nature had to be given mathematical expression. This new vision of the natural world had a profound impact on more than early modern thought, for it carried with it startling implications for political, social, and religious ideologies as well.

Freemasonry, Civil Society, and Democracy in Europe and America (History 97D with prof. Margaret Jacob)

In this course we will look at Freemasonry from its European origins to its place in contemporary American society. It will begin by discussing the roots of Freemasonry in the radical thought of early modern Europe. A new mechanical philosophy emerged from the Scientific Revolution which brought with it the belief that the world had to be understood mathematically. This new mechanical world could easily lend support to both moderate and radical political views. In this course we will see how radical mechanical philosophy provided a foundation for principles of religious toleration, fraternity and democracy, which were to be vital for the establishment of Freemasonry in Europe and America. Ultimately, we will look at Freemasonry’s subsequent influence on American political culture.

Freemasonry, Civil Society, and American Democracy (History 97D with Jesse Sadler)

In this course we will look at Freemasonry and other fraternal organizations in the context of the emergence of civil society and democratic politics in the United States, from the European origins of Masonic activity to the place of fraternalism in our present moment. Throughout the course, we will be testing the extent to which Freemasonry and similar organizations provided a mediating role, between people and the state, between people and other social organizations, and between citizens themselves, amidst wider developments in American politics, economics and society. These developments include the creation of a democratic political language and imaginary, the corresponding developments of a liberal, capitalist polity, a purportedly secular public sphere, and the expansions and contractions of an established yet uncertain space between the state and the individuals it governs: the space of civil society. How can we characterize the relationship, historically, between democracy, civil society and fraternalism? Thus, we will not only be studying Freemasonry, but using it as a testing ground for examining the “constitutions” of American politics.