British Clubs and Societies 1580-1800: The Origins of an Associational World

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Modern freemasonry was invented in London about 1717, but was only one of a surge of British associations in the early modern era which had originated before the English Revolution. By 1800, thousands of clubs and societies had swept the country. Recruiting widely from the urban affluent classes, mainly amongst men, they traditionally involved heavy drinking, feasting, singing, and gambling. They ranged from political, religious and scientific societies, artistic and literary clubs, to sporting societies, bee keeping, and birdfancying clubs, and a myriad of other associations.