“The Strongest Men on Earth“ by Graeme Kent

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Kent, Graeme. The Strongest Men on Earth: When the Muscle Men Ruled Show Business. London: Robson, 2012.

Book Review, by Marcus Mitchell

Journalist, broadcaster, and novelist Graeme Kent offers a historical account of the popularity of professional strongmen and—although the book title does not indicate this—strongwomen who toured Europe and North America in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Kent’s study is largely structured as a series of anecdotes that profile notable bodybuilders and acrobats including Eugen Sandow, Rosa Richter (Zazel: The Human Cannonball), and Katie Sandwina. Popular at circuses and music hall shows, these performers entertained large audiences and fueled public enthusiasm for physical fitness and improved health. Kent suggests that professional strongwomen, in particular, encouraged other women to be independent and attend to the shaping of their physiques as they saw fit. The Strongest Men on Earth would appeal to both sports historians and readers interested in the physical culture movement of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

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