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David Alan Richards, Skulls and Keys: The Hidden History of Yale's Secret Societies

Thursday, March 22, 2018 - 6:30 PM
| Open to the public | Members' Room | $15 per person | advance registration required

The mysterious, highly influential hidden world of Yale’s secret societies is revealed in a definitive and scholarly history. Secret societies have fundamentally shaped America’s cultural and political landscapes. In ways that are expected but never explicit, the bonds made through the most elite of secret societies have won members governorships, U.S. Senate seats, and even presidencies, as well as Pulitzer Prizes and Academy Awards. At the apex of these institutions stands Yale University and its rumored forty-seven secret societies. They have intrigued and enthralled for centuries, engaging the attention of such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Skulls and Keys traces the history of Yale’s societies as they helped define the modern age of politics.

There is a progressive side to Yale’s secret societies that we rarely hear about, one that, in the cultural tumult of the nineteen-sixties, resulted in the election of people of color, women, and gay men, even in proportions beyond their percentages in the class. It’s a side that is often overlooked in favor of sensational legends of blood oaths and toe-curling conspiracies. Yale alumnus David Alan Richards sheds light on the lesser-known stories of Yale’s secret societies.

David Alan Richards holds both undergraduate and law degrees from Yale University and a Master's in history from Cambridge University. His Rudyard Kipling: A Bibliography, co-published in 2010 by the British Library and Oak Knoll Press, was nominated for the bibliography prize of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Earlier works include Rudyard Kipling: The Books I Leave Behind (Yale University Press, 2007) and the co-editing of Kipling and His First Publisher (Rivendale Press, 2001). A longtime officer of the Grolier Club, Mr. Richards serves as secretary of the St. Bartholomew’s Conservancy and on the legal committee of the Yale Club of New York City.  

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