MacArthur Fellows Program

David N. Keightley

Historian and Sinologist | Class of 1986

Historian and Sinologist
Berkeley, California
54 at time of award
Area of Focus
Asian History
Published August 1, 1986

About David's Work

David Keightley studies the origins of Chinese civilization in the Neolithic and early Bronze Ages.

Keightley is one of the first Western historians whose study of ancient Chinese inscriptions provided insights into the religious, political, and social structures of early China, particularly into the formation of political culture viewed in cross-cultural perspective.  Co-founder of the journal Early China, he has published over sixty articles dealing with the history of early China.  Keightley is the author of Sources of Shang History: The Oracle-Bone Inscriptions of Bronze Age China (1978) and The Ancestral Landscape: Time, Space, and Community in Late Shang China (ca. 1200-1045 B.C.) (2000) and the editor of The Origins of Chinese Civilization (1983). 


Keightley is a professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1969, and where he served as chair of the Center for Chinese Studies (1988-90). 

Keightley received a B.A. (1953) from Amherst College, an M.A. (1956) from New York University, and a Ph.D. (1969) from Columbia University.

Recent News

David Keightley’s recent publications include Working for His Majesty (2012), on labor mobilization in the Shang dynasty, and a collection of his essays, These Bones Shall Rise Again (2014), edited by Henry Rosemont.

Updated July 2015

Select News Coverage of David N. Keightley
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