Dr Katherine Arnold

Dr Katherine Arnold

PhD Alumna and Graduate Teaching Assistant

Department of International History

Room No
Office Hours
Tuesday and Wednesday, 10am to 11am
Connect with me

English, German
Key Expertise
German History, Imperial History, History of Science

About me

Katherine Arnold passed her PhD thesis viva in November 2021, which was supervised by Dr David Motadel and Dr Joanna Lewis. She holds BA degrees in History and Anthropology from the University of South Carolina and an MA in European History from UCL. Before starting her PhD at LSE, she spent a year as a US Fulbright English Teaching Fellow in Germany. In the 2018-19 academic year, she undertook her fieldwork through affiliations with the University of Cape Town and Freie Universität in Berlin. In the department, she was a co-convener of the HY509 International History Research Seminar from September 2018 to June 2020 and co-editor of the LSE International History Blog from Janaury 2019 to August 2020. Outside of LSE, she is a Royal Historical Society Early Career Member and a member of the Collection Ecologies collective.

 Watch Katherine talk about her experience as a PhD student in the department.

German Natural History Collectors in Southern Africa, 1815-1867

Her research sits at the interstices of the British Empire, German history, African history, global/transnational history, and the history of science and the environment, developing from her training in history, anthropology, and museum studies. As such, it embraces a range of approaches, methodologies, and source material across the early modern and modern periods. Her PhD project examines the influence of ‘entrepreneurial’ natural history collecting on European natural history, drawing several significant conclusions. It demonstrates how a small, but exceptionally mobile group of Europeans became enmeshed in the overlapping human, material, and intellectual networks of the British Empire and reveals the extent to which the scientific knowledge generated by their work was fashioned outside of the Empire’s traditional spatial and conceptual boundaries. Equally, it overthrows the historiographical consensus on colonialism as merely a ‘fantasy’ for many ‘Germans’ and German institutions prior to the formation of the German nation-state and colonial empire. Moreover, the material and intellectual chaos that ensued from the use of these actors’ collections (due to their commercial and competitive logic) offers a challenge to any preconception that processes of Western knowledge production were simple, straightforward, or friendly, offering an alternative to the sometimes-unconscious acceptance of certain narratives about the ‘advance’ of Western science. Finally, it provided a unique opportunity to unite two historiographies often written in isolation from one another – those of central Europe and the British Empire. These historical actors sit at the interstices of different conceptual approaches, emergent methods, and historiographies which would have not been brought into the same frame otherwise. Drawing on archival research from Britain, Europe, and South Africa, and incorporating sources in English, German, French, Dutch, Afrikaans, Latin, and German Kurrentschrift, this research engaged with caches of correspondence and natural history collections not yet investigated by historians - a distinguishing feature of the project. This work was generously funded by LSE, the German History Society, the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Society, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Expertise Details

Anglo-German Relations; German History; Transnational History; Global History; History of Science and the Environment; Imperial History; the British Empire; South African History



Conference presentations and talks

  • Forthcoming – ‘Colonialism and German Memory Politics: New Approaches to Teaching Colonial Science and German Imperialism’, co-organised three-day seminar at the German Studies Association Annual Conference, Houston, TX, September 2022
  • Forthcoming - 'Rendering the African Environment Material: Parasitic Plants and Human Remains in the World of Nineteenth-Century Natural History Collecting', Things on the Move: Materiality of Objects in Global and Imperial Trajectories, 1700-1900 Conference, German Historical Institute London, September 2022
  • ‘Interpreting the Collector’s Logic: The Pursuit of Desiderata in Early Nineteenth-Century Southern Africa’, CHSTM 'Collections and Collecting' Working Group, Online, April 2022
  • ‘The Material Challenges of “Entrepreneurial” Collecting: Classifying South African Flora from the Ecklon-Zeyher and Drège Collections, 1834-1847’, Collection Ecologies Collective, March 2022
  • 'Botanists in the Belly of Britannia', LSE Beaver Sound Podcast, January 2022
  • ‘The Economization of Social Relations: Understanding Trust in German Natural History’, Cambridge German History Research Group, October 2021
  • 'German Natural History Collectors in Southern Africa’, Re-examining Empires from the Margins Workshop, Munich Centre for Global History, October 2021
  •  'Competition, Collaboration, and Botanical Fieldwork in Southern Africa, 1820-1834’, IHR Colonial/Postcolonial New Researchers’ Workshop, October 2021
  • 'The Role of the German States in the Determination of South African Flora, 1828-1847’, German History Society Annual Conference, September 2021
  • ‘Commercializing and Commodifying Nature: German ‘Entrepreneurial’ Collectors in Southern Africa, 1820-1834’, British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference,  July 2021
  • ‘Collecting Hydnora Africana’, Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities Summer School, Online, June 2021
  • ‘Imperfectly Integrated Outsiders: German Natural History Collectors in the Cape Colony, 1820-1850’, Britain and the World Conference, June 2021
  • 'Negotiating Trust in Natural History Partnerships: The Berlin Museum für Naturkunde in Southern Africa, 1815-1827', MfN Kolloquium,  May 2021
  • 'Germany: The Second Reich, Berlin and Colonial Exhibitions', Hardcore Humanities Podcast, May 2021
  • 'Desire and Desiderata in Cape Natural History', CHSTM 'Colonial Science in the German Empire' Working Group,March 2021.
  • '"Great" Men of Science?: German Naturalists at the Cape of Good Hope, 1820-1835', German Historical Institute London Postgraduate Student Conference,  January 2021
  • 'From Humans to Objects: Commercial Skull Collecting in the Nineteenth-Century Cape Colony', LSE HY509 International History Research Seminar, October 2020
  • 'Examining "Germanness" in a British Colony: Auslandsdeutsche in Southern Africa', German History Society Annual Conference, September 2020
  • 'Writing Europeans into the History of Greater Britain: The Case of Germans in Southern Africa', Greater Britain? Rewriting the Settler Colonies into the History of British Imperialism Workshop, Cambridge, UK, March 2020
  • 'Scientific Discovery in the Cape of Good Hope: German Expertise under Dutch Rule, 1679-1795', IHR History Lab, January 2019
  • 'Spain, Germany and the United States in the Marshall Islands: Re-Imagining the Imperial in the Pacific,' Borders, Boundaries, Territories: Reshaping Collective Identities Conference; Bucharest, Romania, June 2018


  • LSE Class Teacher Award/Martin Abel Gonzalez Prize (2022)
  • Joint winner of the German History Society Postgraduate Essay Prize (2021)
  • German History Society Small Grant (2020)
  • The Royal Society Lisa Jardine History of Science Award (2019)
  • DAAD Short Term Research Grant (2019)
  • Royal Historical Society Postgraduate Research Support Grant (2018)
  • Partnership PhD Mobility Scheme (2018)
  • German History Society Postgraduate Bursary (2018)
  • LSE PhD Studentship (2017-2021)
  • US Fulbright English Teaching Fellowship, Germany (2015)
  • Phi Beta Kappa (2012)
  • Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges Award (2012)
  • Coolidge Award (2011)
  • Woodrow Scholarship Award (2008)