As the son of a Prussian officer Hermann Frobenius and grandson of the director of the Berlin Zoo Henry Bodin grew up, he spent a restless childhood, left the school without school and made a business apprenticeship.
Self-taught, he already turned the early Ethnology, has at times been a volunteer at various museums and founded in 1898 in Munich, his " Africa archive ", which was later renamed the Institute for Cultural morphology. With its also published in 1898 essay on the origins of African culture he founded the culture doctrine which was later expanded by Anchorman and Graebner on, but of which he turned himself again, as it seemed to him too mechanistic. From 1904 to 1935 he undertook several expeditions to Africa ( German Inner African research expedition DIAFE ), in particular to Togo, Tunisia, Zambia and Sudan, Congo and has published numerous works, including an extensive collection of African folk tales. Among other supporters, he also won the journalist Else Frobenius for the dissemination of its research results. Special interest he brought against the rock art of the Sahara first described by Heinrich Barth, which he regarded in the sense of the explorer as an important source for the reconstruction of African history.
At the same time, he developed the principles of his " cultural morphology ", which conceived the individual cultures as organisms in which he, inter alia, was influenced by Oswald Spengler. Central to his theory, the concept of " Paideuma " the. " Cultural soul " that he used in 1938 as a title for the magazine he founded, In 1925 the city acquired Frankfurt the extensive collections of his institute for culture morphology, with whom he relocated to Frankfurt ( today: Frobenius - Institut). In 1932 he was appointed Honorary Professor at the University of Frankfurt and in 1934 the director of the international museum. He was a member of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory.
Through his research on the history of Africa, he enjoys in many African countries still great reputation. He influenced in particular the founders of the negritude Leopold Sedar Senghor, who once wrote of him that he had " Africa played his dignity and identity," and Aimé Césaire, for its poetic and essayistic work, he was just as fundamental. Frobenius saw the African culture at the European equivalent, which was unusual for a scholar of his time.
In him also an extensive collection of approximately 4700 copies of prehistoric African rock art dates back, which is now in Frankfurt Frobenius Institute.
Frobenius and his pupil Adolf Jensen Ellegaard shaped a series of German ethnologists. Under Frobenius ' students, the professors Hans Rhotert find (Director of the Linden - Museum in Stuttgart from 1957 to 1970 ), Adolf Friedrich ( University of Mainz ), Helmut Straube (University of Munich ) and Helmut Petri ( University of Cologne), Hertha von Dechend (University Frankfurt) and the UN advisor Heinz Wieschhoff. In turn, Jensen studied Adolf Friedrich, Horst Nightingale (University of Marburg ), Wolfgang Rudolph (Free University of Berlin) and Eike Haberland (University of Frankfurt).
- From the Flegeljahre of mankind. Pictures of life, bustle and thinking of savages. Brothers Jänecke, Hannover 1901
- The age of the Sun God. Georg Reimer, Berlin 1904
- In the shadow of the Congo Free State: Report on the progress of the first trips of DIAFE of 1904-1906, about their research and observations on geographical and colonial economic field. Berlin 1907
- And speaking Africa. Berlin 1912 (English translation: The Voice of Africa, London 1913)
- The League of the circus of our enemies. Eckart -Verlag, Berlin 1917
- Paideuma. Outlines of a culture and psychology. Munich 1921
- Atlantis - folk tales and seals Africa. Publications of the Institute of Culture morphology. Edited by Leo Frobenius. 12 volumes. Jena: Diederichs 1921-1928 Volume 1: Folk Tales of the Kabyles, Volume 1: Wisdom ( 1921)
- Volume 2: folk tales of the Kabyles, Volume 2: The Monstrous (1922 )
- Volume 3: folk tales of the Kabyles, Volume 3: The Fabulous ( 1921)
- Volume 4: Fairy Tales from Kordofan (1923 )
- Volume 5: poetry and thought in Sudan ( 1925)
- Volume 6: Spielmann stories of the Sahel ( 1921)
- Volume 7: Demons of the Sudan: all kinds of religious compaction (1924 )
- Volume 8: Tales from the Western Sudan ( 1922)
- Volume 9: folk tales and folk poetry from the Central Sudan ( 1924)
- Volume 10: The Atlantic mythology (1926 )
- Volume 11: Folk seals from Upper Guinea, Vol 1 / Fabuleien three nations (1924 )
- Volume 12: poetry of Kassaiden (1928 )