The Circus Age: Culture and Society Under the American Big Top
by Janet M Davis

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ISBN Number: 978-0807853993
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 360
Publication Date: 2002
University of North Carolina Press

This volume explores the development of the early 20th-century railroad circus against such broader historical developments as the rise of big business, the breakdown of separate spheres for men and women, and the genesis of the United States' overseas empire. It casts the circus as a powerful force in consolidating the nation's identity as a modern industrial society and world power.

It goes on to view the many shows that took place under the big top, from scripted performances to exhibitions of labourers to acrobats falling and animals rampaging. Turning Victorian notions of gender, race and nationhood on their head, the circus brought its vision of a rapidly changing world to spectators, both rural and urban, across the nation. This book suggests that even today the influence of the circus continues to resonate in popular representations of gender, race, and the wider world.

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