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The Old Charges

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Chapter Summary

The Old Charges are distinctive to Britain and, while there is obviously a need for comparative studies with European craft documents such as the various regulations of craft gilds from towns and cities in France, Italy and Germany, this chapter focuses on the British context and development of the Old Charges. The appearance of the earliest manuscripts of the Old Charges coincides with growth in the use of the term 'freemason' in British documents. In first publishing the Cooke manuscript, Matthew Cooke suggested that it dated from the end of the fifteenth century. The Regius and Cooke manuscripts are striking examples of the way in which medieval fraternities of different types invented and manipulated myths, legends and symbols to provide a historical warrant for various claims. The Old Charges ensured that the new Enlightenment Hanoverian Freemasonry created in London did not forget its medieval roots.

Keywords: British context; Cooke manuscript; European craft documents; Freemasonry; Old Charges; Regius manuscript



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