In this untold story, the showman P.T. Barnum serves as our tour guide into the world he helped create: a world of freak shows, circuses, displays of foreign people; a world of minstrels, operas, and zoos; a weird and wonderful world that transformed the Victorian era, on both sides of the Atlantic. While much has been written about Barnum – although not recently – the world he created has often been left in the shadows. This book reveals the rich tapestry of nineteenth-century entertainment that Barnum shaped with the help of others: freak and circus performers, American and British showmen and even Presidents of America and Queen Victoria who, we can reveal for the first time, was a lover of the circus and freak show and brought about the birth of the latter. We give this cast of gloriously bizarre characters the kind of spotlight they truly deserve.
Through Barnum, we meet an extraordinary pantheon of performers whose tragic and sometimes triumphant lives are resurrected. We discover their stories, from their perspective. It is a story that has not been told before, and one which deserves an audience: for these performers changed the face of history and defined the world in which we live. And through this journey, we discover the nineteenth century afresh: a period when the bizarre, the freakish, and the strange resided at the heart of Victorian culture.
John Woolf was born in 1988 and read History at Downing College, Cambridge, where he was awarded two scholarships before gaining two further scholarships at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he worked on his fully-funded PhD. His doctorate explored nineteenth-century ‘freak shows’ and was awarded in August 2016.
John is currently co-writing a twelve-episode Audible book on Victorian History with Stephen Fry and Nick Baker of Testbed Productions. He is also working as a Series Consultant and Researcher with Carnival Films (the makers of Downton Abbey), developing a new scr...
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