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.