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Beneath the Big Top is a social history of the circus, from its ancient roots to the rise of the 'modern' tented travelling shows. A performer and founder of a circus group, Steve Ward draws on eye-witness 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 colourful 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.