Ms Katherine Arnold

Ms Katherine Arnold

PhD Student and Graduate Teaching Assistant

Department of International History

Office Hours
Tuesday and Wednesday, 10am to 11am
Connect with me

English, German
Key Expertise
Anglo-German Relations, German History, Imperial History

About me

Katherine Arnold has recently submitted her PhD thesis 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.

Provisional thesis title

German Natural History Collectors in Southern Africa, 1815-1867

In the early nineteenth century, most of the commercial natural history collectors in southern Africa were Germans. They were imperfectly integrated into the (white) social fabric of the region and are now rendered marginal in popular conceptions of the British Empire. For too long, historians have overemphasized Susanne Zantop's analytical approach in "Colonial Fantasies" to discuss German imperial desire in the pre-nation-state period without thoroughly investigating cases representative of German complicity in imperialism prior to their period of formal colonialism. While they were not first and foremost interested in subverting British control in the Cape, this thesis shows how these Germans certainly embraced the role of the colonizer through their commercial mentality and local integration. The pursuit of specimens encouraged ambition and risk-taking: the collector's search was inherently tied to networks that encouraged increasing physical and intellectual control over African peoples and facilitated an uninhibited extracted of flora, fauna, and human remains from colonial environments. Due to their familial and professional ties to the German states, these collectors sold their specimens throughout central Europe, giving German-speaking botanists privileged access to these collectors and their herbaria, rather than British botanists in the imperial center, to begin the process of classifying and determining the unique flora of southern Africa. Challenging many of the traditional spatial understandings which govern interpretations of a 'homogenous' British Empire, this thesis extends this argument by visualizing German cities are crucial nodes of imperial knowledge production beyond the Empire's well-established boundaries. Thus, it contributes to revisionist assessments of the ways in which global exploration and empire were part of a common European project.

Expertise Details

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



Conference presentations and talks

  • Forthcoming – ‘Interpreting the Collector’s Logic: The Pursuit of Desiderata in Early Nineteenth-Century Southern Africa’, CHSTM 'Collections and Collecting' Working Group, Online, April 2022
  • Forthcoming –  ‘The Economization of Social Relations: Understanding Trust in German Natural History’, Cambridge German History Research Group, Online, October 2021
  • Forthcoming – 'German Natural History Collectors in Southern Africa’, Re-examining Empires from the Margins Workshop, Munich Centre for Global History, October 2021
  • Forthcoming  'Competition, Collaboration, and Botanical Fieldwork in Southern Africa, 1820-1834’, IHR Colonial/Postcolonial New Researchers’ Workshop, Online, October 2021
  • 'The Role of the German States in the Determination of South African Flora, 1828-1847’, German History Society Annual Conference, Roehampton University, September 2021
  • ‘Commercializing and Commodifying Nature: German ‘Entrepreneurial’ Collectors in Southern Africa, 1820-1834’, British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference, Online, 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, Online, June 2021
  • 'Negotiating Trust in Natural History Partnerships: The Berlin Museum für Naturkunde in Southern Africa, 1815-1827', MfN Kolloquium, Online, 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, Online, March 2021.
  • '"Great" Men of Science?: German Naturalists at the Cape of Good Hope, 1820-1835', German Historical Institute London Postgraduate Student Conference, London, UK, January 2021
  • 'From Humans to Objects: Commercial Skull Collecting in the Nineteenth-Century Cape Colony', LSE HY509 International History Research Seminar, London, UK, October 2020
  • 'Examining "Germanness" in a British Colony: Auslandsdeutsche in Southern Africa', German History Society Annual Conference, London, UK, 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; Cambridge, UK, March 2020
  • 'Scientific Discovery in the Cape of Good Hope: German Expertise under Dutch Rule, 1679-1795', IHR History Lab; London, UK, 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; Bucharest, Romania, June 2018
  • 'Von der Berliner Gewerbeausstellung 1896: The Cairo and Colonial Exhibitions on Display,' UCL MA History Graduate Conference; London, UK, May 2014
  • 'German Exploration and Cooperative Spirit: European Interactions in Pre-Colonial Africa,' London Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference; London, UK, April 2014


  • 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). Read her interview for LSE Academic Partnerships about her three-month archival trip to Cape Town, South Africa.
  • 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)