Conclusion: The Decline of the Freak Show

Nadja Durbach

in Spectacle of Deformity

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257689
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944893 | DOI:
Conclusion: The Decline of the Freak Show

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This chapter discusses the decline of the freak show, which began in the second decade of the twentieth century. Although many show shops, seaside resorts, and freak museums continued to flourish until well after the Second World War, the end of the Edwardian period was also the end of an era for human oddities. By the late twentieth century the British public had deemed the exhibition of human anomalies inappropriate, indecent, and indefensible. When referred to at all in late twentieth- and early twenty-first century discourse, the freak show has been widely condemned as a product of “the worst traditions of Victorian ghoulishness,” an institution that inhabited “the backwaters of civilisation in the nineteenth century.”

Keywords: Britain; freak show; Victorian period; British public

Chapter.  5776 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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