A New Field of Academic Inquiry
Since the mid-twentieth century the subject of Freemasonry and related fields like the Western Esoteric Tradition or the contemporary emphasis in different scholarly circles on networks, public places, social identity and deliberative democracy have gained enhanced respectability as serious historical inquiry. This open-ended growth often uses transdisciplinary studies in study of the emergence, difficulties or contingency of the individual and group in modern civil society. More than seventy Ph. D. dissertations produced in universities around the world in little more than a decade—and thousands of papers—have focused on some aspect of Freemasonry. Yet the efforts as a whole have often been disjointed. There has been insufficient communication and sustained planning, between the Masonic community, a range of non-profit corporations, foundations, the learning public and, importantly, potential centers of independent academic excellence worldwide. The viability and importance of Freemasonry in the field of academics, remains to be demonstrated thoroughly, for example, in examining the Enlightenment in all of its richness and complexity in diverse regions, cultures, economies and emerging states.
The goal of the Roosevelt Center is to help foster sustained conversation, inquiry and action—including in the digital humanities—across diverse languages in the emerging scholarly fields of civil society, related Freemasonry, and the often overlapping field of the Western Esoteric Tradition. The Center as a first step approaches Freemasonry as an association historically representative of civil society giving considerable focus to the Enlightenment, but expanding to earlier and later places and periods. It supports inquiry into the different roles freemasonry assumed in private and public life. The approach is multidisciplinary involving established, emerging or potentially future disciplinary studies not currently formulated but born from young academics entering the field. The effort supports increasing development of a communication network across multiple institutions such as academic universities, non-profit corporations, foundations including independent scholars.
Promote and diffuse a scholarly understanding of the origins and contingent maturation of civil society and geographically-integrated history of Freemasonry (and its antecedents) through time. Engage the Western Esoteric Tradition as it relates to Freemasonry. Provide funding for important projects as was the case with the recent publication of the five-volume set British Freemasonry. Additional projects and individuals have been and will be supported. The Center is developing state-of-the-art video conferencing, fundraising tools and outreach efforts. There is a need for prosopography in the current scholarly context. It follows the Center is working to build an illustrative prosopographic database of Freemasons and worlds of print using Geographic Information Systems and 3d simulation beginning in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia in America. These three cities taken together are a first step in what is hoped much larger advances involving traditional academic disciplines, emerging disciplines and digital humanities.