March 15, 2017
Dr. Susan Mitchell Sommers, professor of history at Saint Vincent College, was the co-presenter and co-author of “The Foundation of the Grand Lodge in London: Considering Its Context” at the Sixth Annual UCLA International Conference on 300 Years of Freemasonry: Its Meaning at Its Foundation Today” on March 4 in Los Angeles.
The presentation is the result of research she has been doing with co-author and co-presenter Dr. Andrew Prescott, professor of digital humanities at the University of Glasgow.
“It has been known for a long time that the evidence for the traditional story that the Premier Grand Lodge was founded in London in 1717 was flimsy, since this tale is only reported for the first time in 1738, more than 20 years after the events it describes, in James Anderson’s account of the early history of Grand Lodge which is packed with inconsistencies and contradictions,” Sommers commented. “Other evidence, in particular a rough minute book belonging to the Lodge of Antiquity in London, suggests that the Grand Lodge was actually established in 1721 with the installation of the Duke of Montagu as Grand Master at a dinner in Stationers Hall. The Lodge of Antiquity minute book indicates that Montagu’s installation was a socially elevated occasion attended by many prominent figures including the Duke of Wharton, Lord Herbert and Lord Hinchingbrooke. This paper examined the political and cultural context of this event and the genesis of the legends surrounding the foundation of the Grand Lodge in London.”
“I have been working for the past decade on fraternalism in 18th century Britain, as a lens through which to view the public sphere of the Enlightenment,” Sommers continued. “Much, though not all, of my research has focused on Freemasonry as both an institution and a template for other organizations.”
Sommers joined the history department faculty in the school of humanities and fine arts at Saint Vincent in 1993. She earned a bachelor of arts degree and master of arts degree in history at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and a master of arts degree and Ph.D. in history from Washington University in St. Louis. Her fields of specialization include the Enlightenment, Early Modern and Modern Britain, the Age of Empire, Historical Method and Colonial Latin America.
Photo: Dr. Susan Mitchell Sommers
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