Katrin Kleemann is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the German Maritime Museum – Leibniz Institut for Maritime History in Bremerhaven, Germany. She is working on a history of the German Maritime Observatory (Deutsche Seewarte) in Hamburg from 1875 to 1945. This new project is based on maritime history, the history of science, and environmental history. In 2022, Katrin was awarded a Cambridge-Leibniz Museums and Collection Fellowship, which she used to carry out archival research at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge in the UK. In 2022, she became an appointed council member of the International Commission for Historical Oceanography (ICHO).
Katrin has earned her doctorate in history and geology from LMU Munich in July 2020. She pursued her doctoral research at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, where she was enrolled in a structured PhD program; the RCC offered an international and interdisciplinary environment that allowed her to combine studies of history as well as geology. In her dissertation, she studied the impacts of the Icelandic Laki fissure eruption of 1783 on the northern hemisphere. This project is highly interdisciplinary in nature, located at the intersection environmental history, cultural history, climate history, the history of science, and geology. Her book, A Mist Connection. An Environmental History of the Laki Eruption of 1783 and Its Legacy, was published with De Gruyter’s Historical Catastrophe Studies series in 2023. The book series is published by Dominik Collet, Christopher Gerrard, und Christian Rohr. A Mist Connection is one of the winning titles in De Gruyter’s Open Access Book Anniversary competition, it was published open access.
The Laki fissure eruption is a fascinating research object as it is not a cone-shaped volcano but a 27-kilometer long fissure in Iceland’s remote highlands that produced the largest amount of lava in the last millennium during its eight months of activity. In Iceland, the eruption caused a famine, which killed about a fifth of the population. Mainland Europe saw many extraordinary natural phenomena during 1783: a heatwave in the summer, followed by three severely cold winters, numerous thunderstorms, earthquakes, but most notably a veil of dust, which lasted for two to three months and had a sulfuric odor. While the population of Europe bore witness to this unusual haze, outside of Iceland, it was unknown that a volcanic eruption was taking place. In the spirit of the Enlightenment, contemporaries speculated about the cause of the haze and tried to explain the unusual natural phenomena of their time with reason. They developed several theories on what could have caused the unusual weather and natural phenomena.
In 2020 and 2021, she was a visiting scholar at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the LMU Munich in Germany. In the spring of 2021, she was the Barbara S. Mosbacher Fellow at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, to conduct research for a project on timekeeping and earthquakes in New England between 1600 and 1800. In the academic year 2020-2021, Katrin was the Envirotech Communications Fellow; Envirotech is a special interest group within the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) that focuses on the interrelationship of technology and nature.
Katrin also has experience in teaching: From 2020 to 2021, Katrin was a postdoctoral scholar at the chair for economic, social, and environmental history in the history department of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in Germany, here Katrin taught four courses in environmental history, early modern and modern history, as well as gender history. In the summer term of 2020 and 2021, Katrin taught two courses with Dr. Martin Meiske for the Junior Year in Munich program at LMU Munich / Wayne State University, Michigan, USA, on German environmental history from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century. During her doctoral studies, Katrin has taught courses on academic blogging to undergraduate and doctoral students at the LMU Schreibzentrum. Additionally, Katrin also has several years of experience teaching German as a foreign language, in a class setting from teaching refugee children in Berlin and in a one-on-one setting, teaching clients from Ireland, the United States, Colombia, Brazil, and South Africa.
Katrin is also passionate about climate history. Since 2016, she has been the social media editor for the Climate History Network and HistoricalClimatology.com. In 2020, Katrin was a co-author on an article that was lead by Prof. Dr. Dagomar Degroot of Georgetown University and published in Nature and it is titled “Towards a rigorous understanding of societal responses to climate change.” The article coined a new term, the “History of Climate and Society” (HCS), which refers to the truly interdisciplinary study of the past impacts of climate change on human populations. The article offers a detailed critique of the field as it has been pursued to date, presents a new research framework for HCS scholars, and shows how the application of that framework can permit new scholarship into the resilience and adaptability of populations that faced the modest, pre-industrial climate changes of the past 2,000 years. The article identifies five “pathways” that allowed populations to endure and even exploit these changes and suggests that those pathways can help us prepare for the future.
From January 2018 to December 2019, Katrin was a recipient of a fellowship (Promotionsstipendium) of the Andrea von Braun Foundation. From 2015 until 2017, Katrin was a research associate at the Environment & Society Portal, where she served as Arcadia’s managing editor and coordinated the Virtual Exhibitions, two peer-reviewed born-digital journals for the environmental humanities. She still serves on the board of Arcadia. From 2011 to 2014, Katrin was a student research assistent to Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt at the “Twentieth Century Histories of Knowledge about Human Variation” research group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.
Katrin holds a Master’s degree from the Freie Universität Berlin in early modern history and a Bachelor’s degree from the Christian-Albrechts-Universität of Kiel in history and cultural anthropology.
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Image source: Visiting Taormina in Sicily in June 2016, in the background you can see Mount Etna. Photo taken by Jack Walsh, all rights reserved.