The Fitzgerald Brothers’ Circus

The Fitzgerald Brothers Circus: Spectacle, Identity and Nationhood at the Australian Circus (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2015), by Dr Gillian Arrighi from UON's School of Creative Arts, explores the important role circus has played in shaping the Australian national identity.

The FitGerald Brothers Circus: Spectacle, Identity and Nationhood at the Australian Circus by Gillian ArrighiArrighi reveals how and why the biggest Australasian circus of the late nineteenth century mattered to Australians and New Zealanders.

Through vivid explorations of their tent shows, the personalities driving the circus organisation, and the circus' orchestrated 'performances' in the broader sphere of public life, this book presents fresh insights into the significance of the circus in Australasia at the turn of the twentieth century, and in particular, brings to light the unique contribution of the FitzGerald Brothers' Circus to shaping popular ideas about Australian nationhood.

Praise for The Fitzgerald Brothers Circus

Gillian Arrighi's meticulously researched book explores an important aspect of Australian cultural history and the role that circus played in shaping national identity. Animal acts, cross-dressed aerialists and equestrians, gymnasts, swirl dancers, imported acts from the northern hemisphere, wrestlers and strongmen are just a few of the many topics that compete for attention in this fascinating study. Arrighi traces the history of the FitzGeralds' circus between 1888 and 1908, from its beginnings to its eventual decline, within the context of socio-economic and political change in Australia. This is an outstanding contribution to the history of popular culture in Australia, providing new insights into a long forgotten era of circus entertainment, innovation and entrepreneurship.

  • Jim Davis, Professor of Theatre Studies, University of Warwick, UK

This book is important reading for anyone interested in circus and its specialised history, and those interested in narratives of Australian national identity. In a lucid readable style, Gillian Arrighi repeatedly demonstrates that circus was not only metaphorically central to society but served a vital and immediate social function by connecting dispersed communities across Australia and New Zealand and offering local and international acts that challenged all the socially acceptable codes of identity. Thorough archival research of primary sources provides the basis of this history of the highly successful Fitzgerald's Circus and underpins its detailed commentary. This history offers a fascinating case study of the Australian circus business and how it developed within an international context. Arrighi's new book unquestionably contributes to the reinvigorated understanding of circus within cultural studies.

  • Professor Peta Tait, La Trobe University, Melbourne

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