Review of John Belton’s ‘A Questioning Eye on Freemasonry’
John Belton: A Questioning Eye on Freemasonry. Lewis Masonic, 2019, IBSN 978-0-85318-568-0
This is Belton’s first book with Lewis Masonic, but he has had books published previously, most notably with his work on the Union of English Freemasonry in 1813, which was published by Arima in 2013 (an article concerning the union is included in this work). This new work however is a compendium, a compilation of Belton’s best papers and articles on his Masonic research from over the past twenty years, originally brought together for his Masonic tour of Australia and New Zealand with the ANZMRC (Australia and New Zealand Masonic Research Council).
I first met John back in 2002, and we started to work together on a paper looking at the development of four lodges in the early nineteenth century in northern England, examining their membership. This paper was subsequently published by the University of Sheffield and can be seen here on our academia pages. This particular piece had followed on from a paper where John had examined the decline of membership in lodges in the US and the UK, a trend that is still happening, and this cutting-edge paper, which upset many with his raw data and thorough research, can be found in this new book.
Belton is a member of Quator Coronati Lodge and Internet Lodge, and some of his papers have appeared in the AQC Transactions over the years, as well as Heredom in the US. One such paper that appears in this collection that is of this calibre is his study on Giuseppe Garibaldi, which examines his connections to Freemasonry. Another excellent paper that is included here is his work on Freemason Dudley Wright, an early twentieth century writer and ‘Truthseeker’. The Dudley Wright piece in particular was seen as ground-breaking as the first ever bibliography of Wright’s works was included.
A Questioning Eye on Freemasonry can be seen as Belton’s ‘greatest hits’ package, and even the title describes Belton’s attitude to Masonic research; he questions everything, going for the raw research rather than writing established ideas. In doing so, Belton breaks new boundaries in Masonic research, and this collection of his best papers reveals this discipline that he has used so effectively in his research and his writing throughout his career. Th book can be purchased through the Lewis Masonic online shop or on all major book outlets including amazon.