Keywords: History of Italian Freemasonry; History of Italian Universities; Secular Culture; History of Associations; Intellectual History.
This article describes the relationship between Freemasonry and the Italian universities from Unification until the fall of Fascism, an almost completely unexplored theme by historians until today. Identifying a sample of 161 university professors who were members of the Grande Oriente d'Italia (a complete list is published in the appendix) in this period, this paper uses a prosopographic approach to produce an overview of the Masonic presence in Italian universities for the first time. It highlights the fact that Freemasons included prominent figures in the academic world both professorial and managerial (rectors, deans, directors of institutes). Many of these held political and institutional roles of national importance: they were government ministers, MPs and members of the Consiglio Superiore della Pubblica Istruzione. The author considers what led such a large number of professors to become Freemasons and the influence Freemasonry exerted on the activities of universities and, more generally, on the nation's political and cultural life.