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Title: Freemasonry and the press in twentieth century Britain
Author: Calderwood, Paul
ISNI:       0000 0003 8413 1106
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2010
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The following pages contain a study of the British media coverage of freemasonry in the twentieth century. They consider how and why the public image of freemasonry changed from that of a highly-respected elite organisation, at the centre of public life in 1900, to a position on the fringes, regarded by many with suspicion and disapproval in the 1990s. They focus on national newspapers only. This thesis describes how the press projected a positive message of the organisation for almost 40 years, based on a mass of news, which I believe - and show - emanated from the organisation itself (making it an unexpected pioneer in modern public relations practice). It concludes that the change of image and public regards which occurred during the twentieth century was due, mainly, to Masonic withdrawal from the public sphere. It considers - and finds wanting - the suggestion that this withdrawal was a response to Fascist persecution and it offers a number of additional explanations. Freemasonry's reluctance to engage with the media after 1939 powerfully assisted its critics, who grew in strength as a result of developments within the media and the churches. Within the media, greater competition spawned a more challenging form of journalism and accelerated the decline of deference. The rise of secularism and religious pluralism in Britain provided Christianity with increases competition and led some adherents to re-define freemasonry and treat it as a rival. "Conspiracy culture" remained strong throughout the period, rendering the secrecy of freemasonry a major handicap to public understanding. The history of freemasonry in twentieth century Britain is largely an unexplored field and, in examining the fraternity's media profile, this study also illuminates the organisation's collisions with nationalism, communism, and state welfare provision.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modern History ; British History