Circus World

Roustabouts, Animals, and the Work of Putting on the Big Show
Author: Andrea Ringer
An inside look at the circus’s one-of-a-kind workplace
Cloth – $110
Paper – $24.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 07/09/2024
Cloth: 07/09/2024
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About the Book

From the 1870s to the 1960s, circuses crisscrossed the nation providing entertainment. A unique workforce of human and animal laborers from around the world put on the show. They also formed the backbone of a tented entertainment industry that raised new questions about what constituted work and who counted as a worker.

Andrea Ringer examines the industry-wide circus world--the collection of shows that traveled by rail, wagon, steamboat, and car--and the traditional and nontraditional laborers who created it. Performers and their onstage labor played an integral part in the popularity of the circus. But behind the scenes, other laborers performed the endless menial tasks that kept the show on the road. Circus operators regulated employee behavior both inside and outside the tent even as the employees themselves blurred the line between leisure and labor until, in all parts of the show, the workers could not escape their work.

Illuminating and vivid, Circus World delves into the gender, class, and even species concerns within an extinct way of life.

* Publication of this book is supported in part by a grant from the Florence Dunbar Fund

About the Author

Andrea Ringer is an assistant professor of history at Tennessee State University.



“Ringer’s approach to circus history centering the labor of transnational adults, children, and animals is both entirely original and deeply important. Circus World points the way to a new and more expansive kind of labor history.”--Jeremy Zallen, author of American Lucifers: The Dark History of Artificial Light 1750–1865