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Spectacle of DeformityFreak Shows and Modern British Culture$
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Nadja Durbach

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780520257689

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520257689.001.0001

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Conclusion: The Decline of the Freak Show

Conclusion: The Decline of the Freak Show

(p.171) Conclusion: The Decline of the Freak Show
Spectacle of Deformity

Nadja Durbach

University of California Press

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

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