Freemasonry is most popular and widespread in English-speaking countries, especially those that were once part of the British Empire. The United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, and India have the highest concentrations of Freemasons worldwide. But it also has an active presence in many other countries around the world.
A Brief History of Freemasonry‘s Spread
Freemasonry originated in Scotland and England in the late 16th to early 17th centuries. As the British Empire expanded its reach across the globe over the next few centuries, Freemasonry spread with it. The first Grand Lodge was established in London in 1717. Soon after, military lodges attached to British regiments brought Freemasonry to the American colonies in the 1730s. From there, it continued to grow throughout the Empire.
Where Freemasonry is Most Prevalent Today
Today, Freemasonry remains most popular and concentrated in countries that were once part of the British Empire. Let‘s take a look at where Freemasonry has its strongest presence worldwide:
As the birthplace of Freemasonry, the United Kingdom unsurprisingly has the highest density of Freemasons in the world. There are around 200,000 Freemasons across hundreds of lodges in England and Wales. Scotland has around 50,000 members. The United Grand Lodge of England, founded in 1717, is considered the largest Grand Lodge globally.
The United States has the largest total number of Freemasons worldwide, with over 1 million members spread across all 50 states. Known Freemasons among the Founding Fathers include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and John Hancock. 13 signers of the Constitution were Masons. Over the course of American history, 14 presidents have been Freemasons. This includes Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Ford. Prominent modern Masons include astronauts John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin.
*Estimated Freemason membership numbers in select U.S. states
Canada has a long Masonic history and over 300,000 Freemasons today. Every Canadian province has its own Grand Lodge, with the Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario being the largest at over 65,000 members. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ontario, originally founded as a lodge for Black Canadians, has over 2,500 members. Famous Canadian Freemasons include revolutionary William Lyon Mackenzie and Prime Minister John A. MacDonald.
Australia has around 180,000 Freemasons spread across over 1,100 lodges nationwide. Each Australian state and territory has its own Grand Lodge, with the largest being the Grand Lodge of New South Wales with over 70,000 members. The Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory combined have around 5,000 Masons. Prominent Australian Freemasons include explorer Ernest Giles and cricket player Bill Ponsford.
India has a long tradition of Freemasonry dating back to the early 1700s when the first lodge was established by British East India Company employees. Today, estimates suggest over 60,000 Freemasons in hundreds of lodges across India. The Grand Lodge of India, established in 1730, has jurisdiction across much of the country. Each region also has its own local Grand Lodge. Freemasonry was brought to Australia by British colonists in the late 1700s. The United Grand Lodge of New South Wales was founded in 1877. Since then, Freemasonry has grown steadily nationwide.
Other Former British Colonies
Other countries that were once part of the British Empire also continue to have active Freemasonry communities today, such as:
- New Zealand – Over 15,000 members
- South Africa – Around 14,500 members
- Kenya – Over 7,500 members
- Singapore – Over 1,500 members
- Hong Kong – Over 3,500 members
- Malaysia – Over 5,000 members
So in regions across the globe that were influenced by British colonialism, local Freemasonry traditions took root and continue to this day.
Freemasonry in Non-British Countries
While not as widespread as in Anglo countries, Freemasonry does have a significant presence in many other parts of the world as well.
Freemasonry came to continental Europe in the early 1700s and took hold in many countries, although not to the same extent as in the British Empire. Major European countries with active Masonic lodges include:
- France – around 140,000 members
- Italy – around 60,000 members
- Germany – around 14,000 members
- Spain – around 5,500 members
- Belgium – around 20,000 members
Latin American nations like Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Cuba have long-established Masonic traditions dating back to the 1800s. Brazil has the largest Masonic membership in Latin America with over 400,000 across hundreds of lodges. Prominent Latin American Masons include Cuban hero Jose Marti and Chilean leader Bernardo O‘Higgins.
The Philippines, an American colony in the early 20th century, has around 20,000 Masons today. The Grand Lodge of the Philippines traces its history back to 1912. Masonic membership grew rapidly during the American colonial period.
While Freemasonry is truly a worldwide fraternal order with members in almost every country, it remains most popular and concentrated in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries that were once part of the British Empire such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and India. It has an active presence across the European continent and in former Spanish and American colonies as well. So while difficult to pinpoint one specific country, the British Isles stands out as Freemasonry‘s historic home and core membership base today.