Presented by Hans Henrik Appel


Philip Astley’s Circus, founded in 1768, is always viewed as the birth of the modern circus and the following two and a half centuries have seen the continual growth and adaption of the circus to varying global events and trends.  For instance,  the huge appetite for the “freak” human body was quickly catered for by adding to the payroll acts such as the bearded lady, dwarfs, man-fish and contortionists.  German circuses saw the value in wrestling matches and soon the bouts against locals started to become extremely popular.   Carl Hagenback, who trained animals to perform tricks in his animal parks, ventured into circus and very shortly no self respecting company were without a mini zoo.  However, after the destruction of the circus in Copenhagen in 1914, people started to wonder if circus could survive a war. Animals were not a priority for governments and simply feeding them became a problem for circus owner, also many horses and elephants were commandeered for the war effort.  However, as always circus adapted, shows were put on illustrating what life was like on the front but also fantasy acts were produced in order that the soldiers on leave could get away from the horrors and immerse themselves in a fairy story for the evening.  Circus managed to survive the war by re-organising, adapting and surviving.  Circus always adapts.

Article © Han Henrik Appel