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Research Areas

  • European Colonialism in Africa
  • History of Social Policy in Late Colonial Africa
  • Knowledge Exchange between Colonial Empires
  • Indentured Labour in Imperial Africa
  • History of Social Policy in Europe in the 20th Century
  • Entangled History, Comparative History, Global History
  • Gender History
  • Medical History
  • Global Social Policy

Current Research Projects

Project C07, Creating Health Futures: Welfare-policy planning in Tanzania from the 1960s to the 1980s in the CRC Future Rural Africa

Project members: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Lindner, PhD Student: Veronica Kimani

The sub-project C07 will address the history of health policy as a central planning and infrastructuring feature of welfare policy in Tanzania and will investigate how health-policy planning became an important tool for future-making in the newly independent country from 1961 onwards. C07 will concentrate on health-policy planning and the creating of health infrastructures in Tanzania after independence from 1961 to the 1980s, as other costly aspects of welfare policy such as pro-poor or pro-old-age policies were not yet considered feasible in the newly independent state of Tanzania.

Many of the new African governments were confronted with considerable challenges in the field of health. When the colonial authorities left there were too few trained African doctors – in Tanganjika only 18 – not enough hospitals and a very limited number of African people with experience in health policy. The period from the 1960s to the 1980s became a phase of intensive planning and future-making. Tanzania used various Western welfare models, but also socialist/communist forms of health policy, drawing on experiences from the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. However, Tanzanian politicians also had to rely on the infrastructures that had been implemented by the colonial administrations. Experts from the British administration remained rather powerful in the independent state, even if a strong nationalization policy was introduced. Additionally, in Tanzania, the development of health services was strongly connected with the land-use change and the collectivization approach of the Ujamaa programme which was initiated by the country’s first president Julius Nyerere and enforced in the 1970s (Lal 2015). The introduction of health centres was seen as an important tool to accompany the broad land-use change, to help the rural population and likewise to make the Ujamaa programme more attractive for peasants.

The sub-project will examine public-health-policy planning as a means to create a better future for the rural population and investigate the impact of various international models and the influence of transnational actors.

Further information


The production and reproduction of social inequalities: Global contexts and concepts of exploitative labor

Project members: Michaela Pelican, Tu Huynh, Meron Zeleke Eresso, Ulrike Lindner

The research project at the Global South Studies Center of the University of Cologne will explore how and where social inequalities emerge and are continuously produced. Professor Michaela Pelican (Institute of Ethnology) and Professor Ulrike Lindner (Institute of History) have received funding from the Volkswagen Foundation amounting to around 1.2 million euros for the project "The Production and Reproduction of Social Inequalities: Global Contexts and Concepts of Labour Exploitation". Their international research project will be carried out together with Professor Dr Tu Huynh (Jinan University, Guangzhou/China) and Professor Dr Meron Zeleke Eresso (Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia) for a period of four years.

The project addresses questions such as: Which concepts and actors have an influence on the production and reproduction of social inequalities? To what extent does labour exploitation play a role in the emergence and manifestation of enduring inequalities? Why have old concepts of labour exploitation regained importance in the context of increasing global inequalities (e.g. "modern slavery")?

The project comprises four sub-projects that address labour exploitation in different parts of the Global South from both historical and contemporary perspectives.  

Further information

German Colonial Rule. Scholarships for Cooperative Research (2022-2026)

PhD Students: Luoneko Kaduma & Gloria Tjitombo

German colonial history is a rich and by no means completely explored field of research – both in Germany and, even more so, in the regions which it formerly colonised. The new DAAD-fellowship programme “German Colonial Rule” aims to foster international and interdisciplinary cooperation and dialogue between different perspectives within this field. Participating researchers will focus in particular on the role and actions of the Foreign Office as well as other German government institutions in the former colonial territories.

Further information


Completed Research Projects

MIGKNOW: Migrating Knowledge: The Global Networks of German Medic, Botanist and Migration Commissioner Wilhelm Hillebrand in Hawai’I (1821-1896), Marie-Curie Action (2021-2023)

Project members: Dr. Nicholas Miller and Prof. Dr. Ulrike Lindner

The project started in May 2021 at the UoC and will run until April 2023.

The project researches the intersecting, transnational networks the German medic, botanist, and immigration officer Wilhelm Hillebrand used to direct the wide-scale migration of bodies, plants, creatures, medicines and techniques to the Hawaiian Islands. Crossing the history of migration and the history of science, the project tackles the following issues: (i) how transnational scientific actors possessed and performed expertise as part of highly mobile careers in the 19th century (ii9 whether colonial migration was a type of colonial science (iii) how to analyse the “colonial” in independent Hawai’I, and 8iv) the legacies of European global actor-networks in the 19th century Pacific. The project will use close study of Wilhelm Hillebrand’s networking practices to investigate different conjunctures between knowledge, labour and migration in the mid-19th century. Connected research on the careers, biographies, correspondence and ideas of Hillebrand’s global associates will develop insights about the porosity of emerging knowledge forms and scientific networks during the 19th century, and their role in plantation-focused labour migration regimes.

Further information

Forms of Bonded Labour (2014-2018)

The project investigated forms of bonded labour/contract labour from the 18th to the 21th in a global perspective. See

Publication: Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf/Ulrike Lindner/Gesine Müller/Oliver Tappe/Michael Zeuske (eds.): Bonded Labour. Global and Comparative Perspectives (18th-21st Century), Bielefeld: Transcript (2016).

Parallel to the abolition of Atlantic slavery, new forms of indentured labour stilled global capitalism's need for cheap, disposable labour. The famous 'coolie trade' – mainly Asian labourers transferred to French and British islands in the Indian Ocean, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, as well as to Portuguese colonies in Africa – was one of the largest migration movements in global history. Indentured contract workers are perhaps the most revealing example of bonded labour in the grey area between the poles of chattel slavery and 'free' wage labour. The interdisciplinary volume addresses historically and regionally specific cases of bonded labour relations from the 18th century to sponsorship systems in the Arab Gulf States today.

Conference: 1-2 October 2018, University of Cologne: The Camp: Disruptions of Time and Space in Refugee and Labour Camps


History of Gender and Empire (2015-2018)

Publication Ulrike Lindner/Dörte Lerp (eds.): New Perspectives on the History of Gender and Empire. Comparative and Global Approaches, London: Bloomsbury Academics (2018).

Conference: 23-26 September 2015, University of Cologne: Gender and Empire: Exploring Comparative Perspectives and Intersectional Approaches

Memberships / Committee Work / Offices

since 2023

Member of the Historical Advisory Board of the City of Cologne

since 2022

Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Department of History at the University of Basel

since 2022

Member of the Advisory Committee of the Foundation Bundespräsident-Theodor-Heuss-Haus

since 2019

Member of the Advisory Committee “Colonial Contexts” of the German Lost Art Foundation


Member of the Advisory Committee of the Project “Continuities and New Beginnings after National Socialism: The Ministry of Health of the GDR” (ZZF/IFZ)

since 2016

Member of the Editorial Board of the Series “Peripherien. Beiträge zur Europäischen Geschichte“ from Böhlau Verlag


Head of the Department of History, University of Cologne


Member of the Advisory Committee of the Exhibition on Colonial History, Deutsches Historisches Museum


Principal Investigator of the Research Group “Migration and Labour” at the Global South Studies Center (GSSC), University of Cologne

since 2014

Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Contemporary History


Head of the Center for Comparative European Studies (ZEUS), University of Cologne

since 2013

Member of GRAINES (Graduate International Network of European History)


Arbeitskreis Historische Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung (AKHFG), Arbeitskreis Großbritannienforschung (AGF), Deutscher Historikerverband (DHV)