Here, Robinson, a gentleman farmer and medievalist, makes an occasionally lively, often illuminating case for the medieval Knights Templars as the originators of the secretive worldwide society of Freemasons. What sort of people could make use of a secret underground network of sworn allies in 14th-century England? What sort of members would have been capable of organizing such national uprisings as the supposedly spontaneous Peasants' Rebellion of 1382 at a time when clandestine communication and travel between cities was next to impossible? Certainly not a collection of ill-educated construction workers, states Robinson in this indictment of the standard claim that modern-day Freemasonry originated with a society of stonemasons' guilds. On the other hand, the Knights Templars, a well-armed and secretive religious order that provided banking services for Europe's nobility, had ample reason to go underground when Pope Clement V abruptly excommunicated them at the behest of France's King Philip, who had the knights arrested and tortured to avoid repaying the money he owed them. The English Templars received enough advance warning to disappear, Robinson argues, founding a Brotherhood that continued to protect ""heretics"" (including the scientists of the Enlightenment) through the ensuing centuries, until Roman Catholicism's political power weakened and the Freemasons, who came to include several US presidents, became the establishment. The author's enthusiam for his subject proves contagious as he traces Freemasonry's arcane terms to appropriate counterparts in Norman French, the language spoken by the Templars, and links secret Masonic symbols to those likely to have been used by the ousted Knights. He ends by suggesting that a suitable use of the power of five million modern Freemasons, considering their religious tolerance and their new knowledge of the Templars' Crusader origins, might be to act as peacemakers among contending religious forces in Jerusalem, where the order of the Templars began. A refreshing example of scholarly detective work, limited only by its specialized subject.