Professor McPhee was educated at Colac High School, Caulfield Grammar School, and the University of Melbourne, where he completed a BA (Hons 1st Class), Dip.Ed., MA (Hons 1st Class) and PhD. He taught at La Trobe University 1975-79 and the Victoria University of Wellington 1980-86 before returning to the University of Melbourne, where he has held a Personal Chair in History since 1993.
He has published widely on the history of modern France, notably A Social History of France 1780-1880 (London, 1992), Revolution and Environment in Southern France, 1780-1830 (Oxford, 1999), Living The French Revolution 1789-1799 (Basingstoke, 2006), and Robespierre: a Revolutionary Life (2012). In 1999 he published a biography of the former Chancellor Roy Douglas ('Pansy') Wright. His most recent book is Liberty or Death. The French Revolution (2016)
Professor McPhee was Deputy Dean and Acting Dean of the School of Graduate Studies in 1994-96, then Head of the Department of History in 1996-99. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1997. In the same year he became an inaugural 'Universitas 21' Teaching Fellow. In 2003 he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He was an Officer of the Academic Board 1999-2003 and its President in 2002-03. He became Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) in 2003 before being apointed the University's first Provost in 2007. He retired in 2009, but remains an active researcher and teacher. He received a Centenary Medal for services to education in 2003 was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012.
Centre d'histoire contemporaine du Languedoc-Mediterranien et du Roussillon (Montpellier, France).
Member, Centre d'histoire contemporaine du Languedoc-Mediterranien et du Roussillon (Montpellier, France) 2000 -
Institute for the Study of French-Australian Relations.
Member, Institute for the Study of French-Australian Relations 2000 -