The Company He Keeps

A History of White College Fraternities

By Nicholas L. Syrett

432 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 21 illus., notes, bibl.

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5931-5
    Published: September 2011
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8126-7
    Published: March 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-8870-4
    Published: March 2009

Gender and American Culture

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Tracing the full history of traditionally white college fraternities in America from their days in antebellum all-male schools to the sprawling modern-day college campus, Nicholas Syrett reveals how fraternity brothers have defined masculinity over the course of their 180-year history. Based on extensive research at twelve different schools and analyzing at least twenty national fraternities, The Company He Keeps explores many factors--such as class, religiosity, race, sexuality, athleticism, intelligence, and recklessness--that have contributed to particular versions of fraternal masculinity at different times. Syrett demonstrates the ways that fraternity brothers' masculinity has had consequences for other students on campus as well, emphasizing the exclusion of different groups of classmates and the sexual exploitation of female college students.

About the Author

Nicholas L. Syrett is professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies at the University of Kansas and author of The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities and American Child Bride: A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States​.
For more information about Nicholas L. Syrett, visit the Author Page.


"Careful, convincing, and well grounded in many primary sources. . . . Highly readable."--History News Network

"The first [history of white fraternities in America] of its kind."--Greeley Tribune

"There is a lot to learn from its pages; what is so rewarding about the text is its speculations about the advance--and possibly the decline--of American culture that it provokes. The more deeply Syrett probes, the more one wonders: what is our world coming to?"--American Historical Review

"Provides the first historical study that charts the growth of fraternities in the United States. He uses this dazzling assortment of evidence in order to evaluate how white men's ideas and enactment of, what he calls, 'fraternal masculinity,' changed over time. . . . Brilliantly articulates how this notion of masculinity changed and when it changed."--Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History

"What makes this work stand out among studies of fraternity culture is the evolving definition of masculinity that serves as the conceptual lens for this book. . . . This is a fascinating perspective and offers college educators an insight into how the fraternity men on our campuses today may see themselves."--Journal of College Student Development

"Six crisp, deeply researched chapters trace changes from the ideals of brotherhood and genteel manliness that gave birth to fraternities to those of masculinity linked to athleticism, sexual prowess, and the like that appeared by 2000. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

Multimedia & Links

Read: In response to video of racist chants by fraternity members in Oklahoma, Syrett writes at the Daily Beast. Read "Why Racists Find a Home in Frats." (3/11/15)