Eva Surawy Stepney

BA (Hons), MA

Department of History

Research student

Photo of Eva Surawy Stepney
Profile picture of Photo of Eva Surawy Stepney

Thesis title: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and the foundations of ‘evidence-based’ practice in British Psychology, 1948-1990.




Thesis abstract:

In contemporary mental-health care in Britain, Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM)- centred on large clinical trials- is the gold standard for psychological and psychiatric practice. However, the EBM paradigm is facing growing criticism for its reliance on a ‘reductive’ model of mind. The central aim of my research is to historically evaluate the foundations (and implications) of this evidence-based research paradigm in British psychology through an analysis of the formation of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at London’s Institute of Psychiatry, 1948-1980. I will focus on publications of the experimental psychologist Stanley Rachman demonstrating how OCD in its contemporary form emerged from what counted as ‘valid’ psychological ‘evidence’ at different points in time- and the implications this had for conceptions of mental distress more broadly. 

  • PhD History, University of Sheffield, 2020 - present 
  • MA History of Medicine, Birkbeck University of London, 2019
  • BA (Hons) History, University of Sheffield, 2017
Teaching activities

University of Sheffield Teaching Assistant 2021-22 academic year: 

University of Sheffield Teaching Assistant previous years: 

  • HST117 The Making of the Twentieth Century
Publications and Conferences

Publications and blogs:

  • 'OCD in Society: Making Sense of a Hidden Illness', Conference Review, The Polyphony
  • ‘Obstinate Material’: Surgical Intervention and Obsessional Thoughts, The Polyphony
  • Guilty Obsessions, The Polyphony 
  • 'It was a bit like world politics but on a small scale': The Early History of Cheiron-Europe, The Polyphony


  • Organiser, 'Medical (Post) Humanities? Reassessing and Reimagining the Human' conference, The Mowbray, Sheffield, 27th April 2022.
  • Organiser, 'OCD in Society: Theory and Practice', Peckham Levels, 30th May 2022
  • 'From therapeutic aid to pathological behaviour: ‘Seeking reassurance’ in twentieth-century British clinical psychology', 54th Annual Meeting of Cheiron, the International Society for the History of Behavioural and Social Sciences, June 2022.
  • 'From Therapy to Pathology: Reassurance in Twentieth-Century British Psychology',  British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference, Queen Mary's Belfast, July 2022. 
  • “Washers’ and ‘Checkers’: The Constitution of Compulsive Rituals in 1970s British Clinical Psychology’, OCD in Society: The Future of Critical OCD Studies, University of Michigan (May, 2021). 
  • “Visible’ Compulsions: OCD and the Politics of Evidence in Psychology'', WRoCAH Festival of Research (June, 2021).
  • 'Exploring the ESHHS archives', 41st Conference of the European Society for the History of the Human Sciences (ESHHS), Sigmund Freud University Berlin, August 30- September 2nd, 2022.