Freemasonry in the Ottoman lands: a transnational history

Date
2022-07
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Weisbrode, Kenneth
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Bilkent University
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English
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Abstract

Early encounters with Freemasonry in the Ottoman lands took place in the eighteenth century. Its significance as a sociocultural institution developed after the Crimean War, when Ottoman subjects belonging to different ethnic and religious backgrounds joined an increasing number of lodges formed in Istanbul and Izmir, as well as the Balkans, Egypt and Palestine. Following the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, Ottoman Freemasonry formed its own sovereign administrative body and was highly engaged in the political climate of the period during which the Committee of Union and Progress became a major political actor. A significant characteristic of Ottoman Freemasonry after the middle of the nineteenth century was its inclusivity towards different elements in the empire. It was seen by its adherents as a vehicle towards the ideal of a fraternal existence within the remaining territories of the empire, epitomized in the Young Ottoman movement and later that of the Young Turks. This work endeavors to place Ottoman Freemasonry in the broader sociopolitical picture of the Ottoman Empire from the late 18th century until the collapse of the empire following the First World War. The history of Ottoman Freemasonry during this period is significant historically because of its association with individuals from Ottoman society’s diverse ethnic and denominational components, many with prominent standing in the cultural and political history of the empire, and also, because of its relation with the various significant sociopolitical processes which took place during this period.

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