Dr. Foyster is a lecturer in History, Fellow and Director of Studies at Clare College, Cambridge University. Her speciality is British social history from c.1600 to 1850. She has particular interests in the history of the family and gender history, and has publications on childhood, marriage and marriage breakdown, and masculinity.
Her fascination in the personal and emotional lives of ordinary women and men in the past, her love of gossip, and her nosey nature, has made all of these topics irresistible. More recently, she has written about child abduction, and has examined the letters that criminal prisoners wrote from eighteenth-century gaols. She has been awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to investigate the burden that faced families who cared for their mentally ill and disabled relatives in the eighteenth century.
Her biography of the 3rd Earl of Portsmouth, who was declared insane in 1823 is called THE TRIALS OF THE KING OF HAMPSHIRE was published by Oneworld Publications in September 2016.
Every family has its skeletons, but in 1823 the grand Wallop family was about to share theirs with the world. The 3rd earl of Portsmouth was a peculiar man but, by most accounts, a harmless one. An aristocrat of enormous wealth, he kept company with England’s most famous names, inviting Jane Austen to balls and having Lord Byron as chief witness to his second marriage. For the first fifty years of his life he had moved with ease in high society, but at the age of fifty-five his own family set out to have him declared insane.
Elizabeth Foyster invites us into Freemasons’ Hall for the most extraordinary, expensive and controversial British insanity trial ever heard. Amid accusations of abductions, sodomy, blackmail and violence, jurors have to decide if Portsmouth is just a shy, stammering eccentric with foolish habits or a sinister madman attempting to mask his dangerous and immoral nature. Both provocative and heart-rending, The Trials of the King of Hampshire goes beyond the fate of a single man to question Georgian society and examine the treatment of the mentally ill and disabled both then and now.