Vesna Curlic

Thesis title: Immigrant Encounters with Health and Medicine in Britain, 1880-1914


Year of study: 4

  • School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Contact details

Current research interests

My doctoral project is tentatively entitled "Immigrant Encounters with Health and Medicine in Britain, 1880-1914." This project considers the medicalisation of the British immigration system in the early years of its development, as well as the healthcare experiences of migrants and refugees. I'm interested in the ways in which immigrants navigated healthcare and illness, as well as the individuals and organisations that facilitated, challenged or otherwise mediated the immigrants' experiences. The thesis is organised spatially, with each chapter examining healthcare encounters in a different environment, roughly tracing the immigrant journey. The thesis begins with the initial encounters at the British port, then moves through to the immigrant home, into a variety of medical institutions, and finally, considers migrants who moved onwards to other global destinations. More broadly, my current research interests include modern and historical immigration law, medicine, disability, public health, and the intersection of those subjects with race/ethnicity.

Past research interests

My Master's thesis was on the subject of "Domesticity in English and Scottish Insane Asylums, 1890-1914." In this thesis, I considered the implementation of domestic aesthetics and activities in the insane asylum at the end of the nineteenth century. Doctors sought to bring elements of the Victorian home into the asylum as part of a modern, humane regime of mental healthcare, which I termed “institutional domesticity.” In examining asylum records, medical literature, and institutional periodicals, I argue that this process of modernisation was fraught with challenges. I examine the ways in which domesticity was relatively successful in regard to asylum activities, like labour and employment, but suggest that domesticity reached its limitations with regard to the physical asylum space. Ultimately, this thesis demonstrates the ways in which all asylum actors, including patients, staff, community members, and the state, were able to interact with, respond to, and challenge domesticity in the asylum.

Invited speaker

“The immigrant disease: Trachoma, migration, and early twentieth-century ophthalmologic knowledge,” (November 2021) Invited lecture given at the Centre for History in Public Health Seminar Series at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“Newham’s Place in East End Jewish Immigration.” Invited lecture given as part of Newham Council’s Holocaust Memorial Day event. Jan 17, 2022.

 “Mapping Jewish Histories: Reflections on Charting Local Lives.” Invited lecture at the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community Seminar Series at the Institute for Historical Research, London. October 27, 2021.

Papers delivered

“From Therapeutics to Prevention: Interwar Ophthalmology and International Health Organisations,” (July 2022) Paper given at the British Society for the History of Science biannual conference, held at Queens University Belfast.


“Foreignness and the Global Circulation of Ophthalmological Knowledge in the Early Twentieth Century,” (June 2022) Paper given at the Society for the Social History of Medicine biannual conference, held at Swansea University.


“Aliens, Dirt, and Disease:” Trachoma and British Immigration Law, 1880-1914,” (October 2021) Paper given at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine’s doctoral seminar series, Manchester University.


“Disease, immigration, and the conceptualisation of trachoma in Britain,” (July 2021), Paper given at the British Society for the History of Science conference, held online.


“Home Sweet Home: Comfort and Liberty in the British Insane Asylum, 1890-1914,” (2020) Paper given at the Public Health, Private Illness conference at Glasgow University.


“Behind Closed Doors: The Regulation of Patient Movement in English and Scottish Insane Asylums, 1890-1914” (2020) Paper given at the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine conference at Western University [Cancelled due to Covid-19, abstracts published as a booklet].


“Protection and Care: Anxiety, Law, And Medical Legitimacy in the Lunatic Asylum, 1890-1914,” (2019) Invited Lecture for the McCaffrey Seminar Series in History at Western University.


“Conflicts of Law and Medicine in the Victorian and Edwardian Lunatic Asylum,” (2019) Paper given at the Pathways to the Past Graduate Conference at Western University.

In addition to my PhD work, I am currently undertaking an internship with the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH). In this role, I am supporting SGSAH with the ongoing development of their internationalisation strategy and global partnerships. 

Previously, I was an intern with the Academic Services department at the University of Edinburgh, focusing on student engagement with nation-wide teaching and learning quality assurance processes. 

Before moving to Edinburgh, I was an archival assistant at Western University’s Archives and Research Collections Centre in Canada. There, I worked on a project cataloguing visual and cultural material, which centred on the history of locally produced beer labels. I also worked on the preservation and management of the cartography and photography collections.

Teaching Assistant for HIST08044 Introduction to Historiography

Teaching Assistant for HIST08043 Themes in Modern European History


Previously: Teaching Assistant at Western University in Ontario, Canada (Wars that Changed the World: Military and Social Histories in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries)