How the Freemasons made the modern world
496pp. Hodder and Stoughton. 25 [pounds sterling].
IN HIS ENTERTAINING HISTORY of Freemasonry, John Dickie, the author of an internationally successful book about the Sicilian Mafia (Cosa Nostra, 2004), describes the global network of lodges and secret rituals as "one of Britain's most successful cultural exports, comparable to sports like tennis, soccer and golf". This relaxed and jaunty tone pervades The Craft, which is written from an outsider's perspective without giving credence to the more lurid conspiracy theories that have been attached to Freemasonry over the centuries. Dickie mentions that his grandfather, a Scottish railwayman, became a Freemason in Aberdeen in 1919, like many thousands of soldiers returning from the Great War, but there is no suggestion that Dickie himself is a mason. He gives a cursory account of the supposedly secret initiation rituals--"we only have to know a little bit about them to enjoy Masonic history"--before moving on...