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Professor Barbara Keys

Director of Research/Professor (US History)


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Director of Research/Professor (US History) in the Department of History  


Barbara Keys is a specialist in U.S. and international history. She began her teaching career in 2003 after receiving her PhD in History from Harvard University. Before coming to Durham, she taught at the University of Melbourne. 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.

She is currently finishing two books, one on Henry Kissinger's legacy and one on anti-torture campaigns since 1945. Her research and teaching areas include human rights, diplomacy, U.S. foreign relations, and the Cold War in global perspective. Many of her publications can be found at She is the recipient of 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. She was the 2019 President of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Professor Keys welcomes expressions of interest from prospective postgraduate students interested in the history of human rights, 20th century diplomacy, U.S. foreign relations, social movements, emotions, or international sport.

Research interests

  • History of human rights
  • History of emotions
  • History of diplomacy
  • History of international sport
  • Henry Kissinger and Sino-U.S. relations

Esteem Indicators

  • 2019: President: President, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations


Authored book

  • Keys, Barbara (2014). Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s. Harvard University Press.
  • Keys, Barbara (2006). Globalizing Sport: National Rivalry and International Community in the 1930s. Harvard University Press.

Chapter in book

  • Keys, Barbara & Hodgson, Amy (2022). "Human Rights Watch Takes on China: Maintaining the Primacy of Civil and Political Rights, 1991-1996". In Embattled Visions: Human Rights since 1990. Eckel, Jan & Stahl, Daniel Wallstein-Verlag. 139-162.
  • Keys, Barbara (2022). "Human Rights". In Cambridge History of America in the World, Vol. 4: 1945 to the Present. Friedman, Max Paul Friedman, Engerman, David & McAlister, Melani Cambridge University Press. 328-48.
  • Keys, Barbara (2022). "Information and Communication Technologies in Human Rights Work in the 1990s". In Human Rights and Technological Change. Möckel, Benjamin & Homberg, Michael Wallstein-Verlag. 310-330.
  • Keys, Barbara (2021). "Sport and Emotion". In The Routledge Companion to Sport History. Murray G. Phillips, Douglas Booth & Carly Adams Routledge. 223-34.
  • Keys, Barbara (2020). "The End of the Vietnam War and the Rise of Human Rights". In Decolonization, Self-Determination, and the Birth of Global Human Rights Politics. Moses, A. Dirk, Duranti, Marco & Burke, Roland Cambridge University Press. 360-374.
  • Keys, Barbara (2016). "Nonstate Actors". In Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations, eds. Frank Costigliola and Michael Hogan. Cambridge University Press. 119-134.
  • Keys, Barbara (2016). "’Something to Boast About’ Western Enthusiasm for Carter’s Human Rights Diplomacy". In Reasserting America in the 1970s: U.S. Public Diplomacy and the Rebuilding of America's Image Abroad, eds. Hallvard Hottaker, Giles Scott-Smith, and David Snyder. University of Manchester Press. 229-244.
  • Keys, Barbara (2015). "Emotions in Intercultural Relations". In Asia Pacific in the Age of Globalization, ed. Robert David Johnson. Palgrave Macmillan. 212-220.
  • Keys, Barbara & Burke, Roland (2013). "Human Rights". In The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War, eds. Richard Immerman and Petra Goedde. Oxford University Press. 486-502.
  • Keys, Barbara (2012). “Anti-Torture Politics: Amnesty International, the Greek Junta, and the Origins of the U.S. Human Rights Boom". In The Human Rights Revolution: An International History, eds. Petra Goedde, William Hithcock, and Akira Iriye. Oxford University Press. 201-222.
  • Keys, Barbara (2012). "The Early Cold War Olympics: Political, Economic, and Human Rights Dimensions, 1952-1960". In The Palgrave Handbook of Olympic Studies, eds. Helen J. Lenskyj and Stephen Wagg. Palgrave Macmillan. 72-87.
  • Keys, Barbara (2007). "The Soviet Union, Cultural Exchange, and the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games". In Sport zwischen Ost und West. Beiträge zur Sportgeschichte im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, eds. Arié Malz, Stefan Rohdewald, and Stefan Wiederkehr. Fibre. 131-146.
  • Keys, Barbara (2006). "The 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and the Postwar International Order". In 1956: European and Global Perspectives, eds. Carole Fink, Frank Hadler, and Tomasz Schramm. Leipziger Universitätsverlag. 293-307.

Edited book

  • Keys, Barbara (2019). The Ideals of Global Sport From Peace to Human Rights. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Journal Article

Other (Print)

  • Keys, Barbara (2016). “The Kissinger Wars". American Historian. 10: 16-22.