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).