The oldest continuously existing fraternal organization in the world, freemasonry is steeped in centuries of secrecy and rituals—all endlessly fascinating to outsiders.
UCLA historian Margaret Jacob, an authority on freethinkers, freemasons, and other radicals and romantics of the 18th Century, argues that the hundreds of Masonic lodges founded in 18th-century Europe were some of the most important enclaves in which modern civil society was formed.
Her books Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth Century Europe (Oxford University Press, 1991) and The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemason and Republicans (Second Rev. Ed., The Temple Publishers, 2003) are considered landmark studies.
Before joining the faculty at UCLA, Margaret Jacob taught at the City University of New York, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Utrecht, the New School for Social Research, and the University of Pennsylvania. She also served as dean of Eugene Lang College at the New School. Her interests have taken her into European history and she has worked extensively in archives from London and Birmingham to Amsterdam, The Hague, Brussels, Paris and various French provincial towns. In 2002 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Utrecht and made a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Hollandse Maatschappij der Weterschappen.