Beth Potter (KCL) - 2021-22 Students

Circus remains: Circus and the late British empire, 1900-1980

My research traces the remains of the Victorian circus’s performance of empire through the twentieth century, against the backdrop of – and as enmeshed in – Britain’s messy transition from imperial to nominally ‘post’-imperial nation. It brings together circus studies and the history of the nation in ‘post’-imperial Britain to explore how ongoing legacies of colonialism register beyond the textual, in ways that are embodied and unwritten. Using previously unreleased material from BBC archives, as well as Pathé and the NCFA, I show how British identity was negotiated in circus productions, suggesting that circuses became embodied archives of imperialism. I concurrently question how televised circus’s broadcasting institutions and cultural stakeholders shaped—and continue to sculpt—attitudes towards, and histories of, empire.

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