James Burnes (1801–1862): Scottish Freemason and Empire Builder
Issue: Vol 6 No. 1 (2015)
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
James Burnes (1801–1862) was one of the most charismatic and polarizing figures of nineteenth century Scottish freemasonry. He is best remembered for his work on the history of the Knight Templars and as the primary mover of the first Indian lodge specifically designed to welcome native candidates. In the Indian presidency of Bombay, he became an enthusiastic promoter of freemasonry and a zealous political agent defending British colonial interests wherever his travels took him. Although much has been written about his masonic career in India, there is no extensive biography of James Burnes, or at least no satisfactory attempt at a biographical approach that would seek to situate his masonic career within the more general frame of his career as a soldier and empire-builder. This study is therefore meant both as biographical approach that seeks to attempt to offer a more accurate insight into the life and works of this fascinating character, and as an insight into the intricate relationship between freemasonry and imperialism.
Author: Simon Deschamps
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