Julia Irwin

Julia Irwin

T. Harry Williams Professor of History


225-A Himes Hall


Courses Taught

World History since 1500

Diplomatic History of the United States, 1914 to the Present


Current Research Interests

My research focuses on the place of humanitarian assistance in 20th century U.S. foreign relations and international history. My first major research project focused on the history of U.S. foreign relief efforts in the early 20th century, particularly during the First World War and its aftermath. In my second major research project, I explored the history and politics of U.S. foreign disaster assistance across the 20th century, with a focus on humanitarian emergencies caused by tropical storms, earthquakes, floods, and other natural hazards.

I am currently writing A Very Short Introduction to Humanitarianism for Oxford University Press. I also serve as a founding co-editor of The Journal of Disaster Studies.

Interested in Directing Theses On

US foreign relations / US & the world

International humanitarianism, human rights, and development


War & society


PhD, Yale University, 2009

MPhil, Yale University, 2007

MA, Yale University, 2006

BA, Oberlin College, 2004

Awards and Honors

Stuart L. Bernath Lecture Prize, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (2020).

Roger D. Bridges Distinguished Service Award. Given by the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (2018).

Organization of American Historians (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer (2017–2023).

Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (2011).

Best Article Prize, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (2010).


Catastrophic Diplomacy: US Foreign Disaster Assistance in the American Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2023)

Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

Notable Articles 

“Bernath Lecture: Our Climatic Moment: Hazarding a History of the United States and the World,” Diplomatic History 45:3 (2021): 421–444. 

“Disastrous Grand Strategy: U.S. Humanitarian Assistance and Global Natural Catastrophe,” in Rethinking American Grand Strategy, eds. Elizabeth Borgwardt, Christopher McKnight Nichols, and Andrew Preston (Oxford University Press, 2021): 366–383. 

“The ‘Development’ of Humanitarian Relief: U.S. Disaster Assistance Operations in the Caribbean Basin, 1917–1931,” in The Development Century: A Global History, eds. Stephen Macekura and Erez Manela (Cambridge University Press, 2018): 40–60. 

“Raging Rivers and Propaganda Weevils: Transnational Disaster Relief, Cold War Politics, and the 1954 Danube and Elbe Floods,” Diplomatic History 40:5 (2016): 893–921. 

“‘Sauvons les Bébés’: Child Health and U.S. Humanitarian Aid in the First World War,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 86:1 (2012): 37–65. 

“Nation Building and Rebuilding: The American Red Cross in Italy During the Great War,” The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 8:3 (2009): 407–439.