Beneath the Big Top

A Social History of the Circus in Britain

Steve Ward

Date Published :
November 2014
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
60 integrated images
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Paperback
ISBN : 9781783030491
Pages : 224
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
Also available as an ebook:
Buy From Amazon Amazon
Buy From Apple Apple
Buy From Google Google
Buy From Kobo Kobo


Beneath the Big Top is a social history of the circus, from its ancient roots to the rise of the ‘modern’ tented traveling shows. A performer and founder of a circus group, Steve Ward draws on eyewitness accounts and contemporary interviews to explore the triumphs and disasters of the circus world. He reveals the stories beneath the big top during the golden age of the circus and the lives of circus folk, which were equally colorful outside the ring:

• Pablo Fanque, Britain’s first black circus proprietor
• The Chipperfield dynasty, who started out in 1684 on the frozen Thames
• Katie Sandwina, world's strongest woman and part-time crime-fighter
• The Sylvain brothers, who fell in love with the same woman in the ring

About The Author

A former performer, teacher and director of a prize-winning youth circus, Steve Ward has worked for many years with circus groups worldwide. He has an MA researching the role of circus in education and has written widely on the subject. He has previously written two books on aspects of the circus, _Beneath the Big Top: A Social History of the Circus in Britain_ (2014) and _Sawdust Sisterhood: How Circus Empowered Women_ (2016). He still occasionally performs, creates and directs circus shows.


"As a former circus performer and now teacher and circus professional I thoroughly enjoyed this book!! The Circus has such a rich history and Steve does an amazing job at not only chronicling it but also telling entertaining and wonderful stories throughout. The photos are also amazing!! I recommend this book for both circus professionals and also for everyone else…it is a fabulous read for all!!"

- Carrie Heller, Circus Arts Institute, Atlanta, GA

More from this publisher