University explores the fascinating world of Freemasonry

The UK's first dedicated Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, based at the University of Sheffield, will be hosting a series of public lectures to present new perspectives on the fraternal organisation.

The lecture series, which starts on Thursday 5 March 2009, will focus on the role of fraternities in Eastern Europe. The series provide a unique opportunity for leading scholars in the field to consider new perspectives on a historical phenomenon that has played a pivotal role in shaping the political and social landscape of many countries.

Guest speakers will include Dr Ernest Zitser from Duke University in the USA, who will talk about fraternalism at the court of Peter the Great in Russia, and Professor Anthony Cross, a world-renowned scholar in the field of 18th Century Anglo-Russian cultural relations, who will look at Masonic links during the reign of Catherine the Great.

The Centre, in cooperation with the Showroom Cinema, will also be screening a series of films including The Man who would be King on 9 March 2009. The film, which stars Sean Connery and Michael Caine, provides a rare insight into the largely undocumented world of the society, as it follows the lives of two men who are completely devoted to the principles of Freemasonry.

Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies, yet it is often the subject of some debate and conjecture, as elements of the society remain private. The Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism was established in 2000 as the first centre in a British university devoted to scholarly research into Freemasonry. The Centre studies the historical, social and cultural impact of freemasonry, particularly in Britain.

Dr. Andreas Önnerfors, Director of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, said: "Our lecture series will present unknown and unique insights into a cultural phenomenon in societies in a part of Europe we are generally not too well informed about. Fraternal organisations had a major impact on the culture of Eastern European societies and are still a debated topic to this day. For the first time we are bringing together major experts in the field to shed new light on this fascinating area."

The lecture series will run from Thursday 5 March 2009 until Thursday 28 May 2009. For a full programme of lectures and films taking place, visit: http://freemasonry.dept.shef.ac.uk/.

Notes for Editors: For further information on the events, please contact Dorothe Sommer on 0114 222 9891 or email d.sommer@sheffield.ac.uk

For further information please contact: Catherine Milburn, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2225339 or email c.l.milburn@sheffield.ac.uk