Human Zoos in the UK: A Dark Chapter in British History

The concept of human zoos, also known as “ethnological exhibitions,” was a form of public entertainment that was popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

During this time, European and North American countries including the UK, France, Germany, and the United States displayed people from colonized territories in zoos and fairs for the purpose of educating and entertaining the public.

These exhibitions were often racist and dehumanizing, presenting people from other cultures as exotic specimens for public scrutiny.

In the UK, human zoos were a common feature at World Fairs and exhibitions, where people from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific were displayed in various forms of captivity.

Visitors could view “native villages,” where people lived in replicas of their homes and performed cultural activities, or even see them in cages and live animal exhibits.

The most notorious of these exhibitions was the London International Health and Hygiene Exhibition in 1908, where a replica of a Congo village was constructed, complete with huts, a marketplace, and “natives” who were brought from Congo to perform in front of crowds.

This exhibition was heavily criticized by anti-colonial and anti-slavery activists, including writer and campaigner Mary Kingsley, who called the display “disgraceful” and “demoralizing.”

Despite the widespread criticism, human zoos continued to be popular attractions until the mid-20th century.

It was only in the 1960s and 1970s, with the rise of the civil rights movement and decolonization, that human zoos began to be seen as unacceptable and eventually disappeared.

The legacy of human zoos continues to haunt us today. They represent a dark chapter in British history, where people from other cultures were treated as objects of curiosity and subjected to racist and dehumanizing treatment.

It is important to remember and acknowledge this history, so that we can learn from it and work towards a more inclusive and respectful world.

Human zoos were a shameful period in British history, where people from other cultures were subjected to racist and dehumanizing treatment for the purpose of entertainment.

Although human zoos have long since disappeared, it is important to remember and acknowledge this history, so that we can learn from it and work towards a more inclusive and respectful world.

20 thoughts on “Human Zoos in the UK: A Dark Chapter in British History

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