Barbara Keys is Professor of U.S. and International History at The University of Melbourne. She began her teaching career in 2003 after receiving her Ph.D. in History from Harvard University, where she studied under Akira Iriye and Ernest May. In 2019 she is the President of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Research Interests

• the history of international human rights, especially campaigns to abolish torture from the 1960s to the present; the role of information and communications technology in human rights movements; and human rights after the end of the Cold War

• the influence of transnational movements and organizations on international affairs

• the role of emotions in history, including personal diplomacy

• the history of sport and the Olympic Games, especially the ideals of peace associated with international sports competitions and international sports organizations’ embrace of human rights language in recent years

• Henry Kissinger’s role in U.S. foreign relations and Sino-American relations, especially since 1977


Before coming to Melbourne, Barbara Keys taught at California State University in Sacramento and was a research fellow at the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. She has been a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at UC Berkeley, the Center for European Studies at Harvard, the Center for the History of Emotions at the Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung in Berlin, and the Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte in Mainz. Her teaching areas include 20th century international relations, U.S. foreign relations, U.S. history, and the Cold War in global perspective.

Grants and Awards

She was awarded the 2010 Stuart Bernath Lecture Prize, awarded by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the University of Melbourne’s 2015 Woodward Medal in Humanities and Social Sciences for her book Reclaiming American Virtue.

In addition to numerous smaller grants, she has received two major Australian Research Council Discovery Project Awards: “Making Torture Unthinkable: The International Campaign against Torture, 1967-1984” (2011-2014) and “Moral Claims in International Sports Events and the Ethics of World Order” (2017-2020), with Roland Burke and Xu Guoqi.

Professional Activities

She serves on the editorial boards of Modern American History and Human Rights Quarterly and served a three-year term on the editorial board of Diplomatic History (2009-2011). A long-time member of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, she has served on the Membership Committee, the Nominating Committee, the Stuart Bernath Article Prize Committee, the Committee on the Status of Women, and the Stuart Bernath Lecture Prize Committee.

In addition to giving keynote lectures in three countries, she has given talks at the University of Chicago, the University of Connecticut, Harvard University, Ohio State University, the German Historical Institute (Washington), the Newberry Library, Temple University, Vassar College, the University of California at San Diego, Freie Universität Berlin, University of Freiburg, the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Study, the Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte (Mainz), University of Cambridge, the Center for the History of Emotions (Berlin), the U.S. Studies Centre (Sydney), Monash University, La Trobe University, University of Sydney, the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris), the University of Zürich, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the International Sports Relations Foundation Forum (Seoul), the International Olympic Academy (Olympia),  the Australian Institute for International Affairs, and the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore.