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Title: Freak shows at British seaside resorts, 1900-1950
Author: Purce, Emma Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 5261
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis merges the history of the seaside and the history of the freak show, to explore the display of freaks in the first half of the twentieth-century, including their meanings, representations and constructions for the British public. It builds upon the scholarly research conducted by Leslie Fiedler, Robert Bogdan, Rosemarie Garland Thomson, and Nadja Durbach that focuses on the exhibition of unusual bodies for entertainment in the nineteenth-century. Through concentrating on displays of freakery between 1900 and 1950, it assesses the continuation of freakery at British seaside resorts, spaces on the physical and metaphorical margins of British life. The thesis assesses the seaside space as a site for the continuation of freakery in the twentieth-century. It examines the different types of unusual bodies that were displayed as part of the coastal freak show including midgets, starvation performers, fat people, and 'half-men, half-women'. Through contextualising exhibitions of unusual bodies within their social and cultural context, it demonstrates how the British public understood themselves in relation to the unusual person on display, particularly in reference to health, wellness, 'normality', and 'abnormality'. Ultimately, the thesis argues that freak shows remained central to British culture in seaside locations until the mid-twentieth century, when other forms of amusement, such as films and television, became more popular in the leisure lives of the public, and became the primary way in which the public appeased their curiosity in those with unusual bodies.
Supervisor: Anderson, Julie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available