School of History

Dr Stef Eastoe


Room Number: ArtsTwo 2.31


I am a social and cultural historian, specializing in the history of medicine. My work focuses on the history of idiocy, imbecility and incurable insanity in the long nineteenth century, which encompasses the history of asylums, institutions and welfare. I have wider interests in the history of the body, emotions, and the material culture of asylums.

Undergraduate Teaching

HST6407 The Body in Science, Medicine and Culture since 1832
HST5332 – Victorian Values: Religion, Sex, Race and Deviance in Nineteenth-Century Britain
HST4313 – Life and Death in the Victorian Home


Research Interests:

My research focuses on the history of idiocy, imbecility and incurable insanity, and the experience of people so classified in the mixed economy of welfare in the long nineteenth century.

My PhD concerned the history of Caterham Imbecile Asylum, the first state institution built specifically for the care, accommodation, and management of adult pauper idiots. A core focus of my research was to uncover the lives, experiences and where possible voices, of the people admitted to this institution, to challenge a number of stereotypes, historical and contemporary, to those considered to be incurably insane. I am currently working on a monograph based on my PhD thesis, and am also exploring the emotional world of the long-stay asylum, through an assessment of its environment, material culture, and treatment practices.


‘Relieving gloomy and objectless lives’. The landscape of Caterham Imbecile Asylum, Landscape Research 41(6):1-12

'Playing Cards, Cricket and Carpentry: Amusement, Recreation and Occupation in Caterham Imbecile
Asylum' Journal of Victorian Culture (forthcoming)