The history of freemasonry is a long and fascinating one, and one that is shrouded in mystery and mythology. The origins of this unique fraternal organization remain matters of conjecture and debate, and a great deal of misinformation exists as well.
There is evidence which suggests the existence of Masonic Lodges in Scotland as far back as the late sixteenth century, and by the mid-seventeenth century there were many references to freemasonry throughout England.
Officially the first Grand Lodge of England traces its origins back to the year 1717, In that year, the four existing London lodges met in a joint dinner and the members agreed to found the Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge of England rapidly expaneded into a wide-ranging regulatory body, with nearly all lodges throughout England joining the Grand Lodge.
From the mid-1750’s on two competing English Grand Lodges would vie for supremacy, marking a fascinating period in the history of the organization. The Moderns and the Ancients continued to fight for supremacy within the organization unti 1813, when they united to form the United Grand Lodge of England.
The Grand Lodge of Ireland was formed in 1725, with the Grand Lodge of Scotland following in 1736. By the 1730s freemasonry had been exporeted to the British colonies in North America, with the Grand Lodges chartering a number of affiliated lodges in this new territory.
After the American Revolution overthrew the rule of Britian, a number of independent United States Grand Lodges were formed within the boundaries of the various states. There was some consideration given to consolidating these state Grand Lodges into a Grand Lodge of the United States, but this idea did not come to fruition. The state lodges were reluctant to give up their authority in favor of one overarching Grand Lodge.
The oldest known jurisdiction in Europe is known as the Grand Orient de France, or the GOdF. This organization was founded in 1728. Eventually most of the English-speaking jurisdictions would sever their relations with the GOdF, and currently the Grande Lodge Nationale Francaise, or GLNF is the only French Grand Lodge with a regular relationship with the United Grand Lodge of England.
Throughout most of Latin America, the GOdF style of freemasonry is the predominant model. Even so, there are also Grand Lodges affiliated with the Grand Lodge of England in many of those Latin American countries. In addition, the worldwide community of freemason Grand Lodges enjoys a fraternal relationship with the Grand Lodge of England.