Segments in this Video

Do We Know What Poverty Is? (02:04)


Setting the stage for this lesson on poverty, the viewer arrives home and settles in for some television. Images of poverty are ubiquitous. The viewer "falls asleep" and begins the journey to understand poverty.

Poverty in Prehistory (02:09)

Consider early man's circumstances in this exploration of the start of human history. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle was simplistic, but insecure. One could die suddenly with a change in climate or animal disease.

Assyria & Ancient Egypt (01:04)

Kings and chiefs were the billionaires of ancient history. Lack of reliable access to basic needs (food and water) eluded 90% of the world's populations. Live expectancy was about 35 years. Repeated famine was the norm.

Ancient Greece (02:17)

The first debates about poverty in our historical record occur in Greece. Poverty is the engine of the system of wealth. In this setting, poverty is perceived as natural, inevitiable and unsolvable.

Cairo 1100 AD (02:32)

Visit the Middle East during the late Middle Ages; debtors are subject to arrests. Beggars line up outside mosques during Friday prayers.

Paris 1300 AD (03:49)

In the late 13th century, 50% of the population is poor. Wealthy people leave their estates to the poor and religious groups quickly hop on the bandwagon. When religious piety is associated with poverty, monks and other religious figures become competition for the poor.

Era of Colonialism (04:10)

In their conquest of the Inca, European colonizers laid the foundation for modern poverty. Prior to 1492, Europe was a relatively minor economic player, with African and Asian societies at the front of textiles and iron-making.

China 1743 AD (02:00)

Up to 2 million were recipients of grain relief during the famine of 1743.

Europe 1800 AD (03:21)

Learn how the Industrial Revolution--a time of "satanic mills" and forced child labor--also set the world on a course of reduction of extreme poverty. But war disrupts markets and machines are updated, leaving their operators unskilled for current needs.

The Work House (02:09)

Europe's poor houses were established with the plan that able males would be exploited for the aims of the rich, but were quickly filled with women and children.

Oliver Twist (01:23)

Dickens' work created stereotypes that live today. Journalists sought out poor to write about, and the government is, in turn, forced to respond to the issue of poverty.

Canudos Brazil (02:37)

Hear an encapsulation of Karl Marx's views on poverty and a summary of Antônio Conselheiro's failed Communist settlement

19th Century - Present Day (03:11)

Strikes and protests result in a variety of improved conditions in industrializing countries, including rising incomes in even the working class. Living conditions are vastly improved in the West, but emerging countries are now subject to the same problems of industrialization.

Currency & the Creation of the Third World (02:47)

Colonial governments outlawed local currency (such as the cowry in Africa), creating instant poverty.

1876 Southern Indian (01:16)

Millions of people died when, despite harvest failure, wheat and other crops were exported from India.

Africa: Apartheid and Beyond (02:02)

The 1913 Land Act gave white South Africans large tracts of land, while blacks earned less than a living wage. Shanty settlements grew. Changes came with the establishment of the United Nations.

Green Revolution (02:09)

Hear an excerpt from President Truman's 1949 speech and the details of various efforts to address world poverty.

Mao's Great Leap Forward (02:12)

Communal farms were created with the aim to raise China's economic status without foreign aid. Communal/home smelters were used to melt any piece of metal that could be found. Thirty million starved to death over three years.

Africa (03:49)

Learn about private interests that exploited newly independent Ghana; the objectives of the Akosombo (Volta) Dam project; and the resulting squeeze of now indebted nations by the IMF and World bank.

What Reduces Poverty Today? (04:27)

People disagree about what will end poverty.The Cochabamba protests of 2000 were a response to the privatization of the municipal water supply.

By the Rich, for the Rich (02:27)

An expert explains that unlike labor, capital can flow freely across the world, making money for the rich. Learn how reform could be achieved, and why it isn't.

Are You Next? (02:59)

The dream sequence ends with a scenario in which the dreamer finds himself facing poverty.

Credits: Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty—Why Poverty? (00:42)

Credits: Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty—Why Poverty?

Bonus Material: "Why Poverty" (06:23)

This condensed version of "Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty—Why Poverty?" uses excerpts to take viewers through the material in under 5 minutes.

Credits: Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty—Why Poverty? (00:40)

Credits: Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty—Why Poverty?

"Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 1" (03:15)

YouTube performer Wilbur Sargunaraj greets India's street-dwellers and "middle class." Get a first-hand look at the lives of India's poorest citizens.

Music and Credits: "Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 1" (00:38)

Music and Credits: "Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 1"

"Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 2" (03:35)

YouTube performer Wilbur Sargunaraj investigates the causes of poverty in this visit to the "Kodambati." Villagers discuss the caste system and the impact of multinational retailers on their ability to lift themselves out of poverty. Sargunaraj challengers viewers to make the world a better place.

Music and Credits: "Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 2" (00:40)

Music and Credits: "Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 2"

"Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 3" (01:46)

YouTube performer Wilbur Sargunaraj visits Kolkata (Calcutta), India where encourages viewers (by demonstrating) to give and engage with the poor.

"The Poverty Song" ("Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 2") (02:13)

YouTube performer Wilbur Sargunaraj sings and engages local people who dance to this song about solving poverty together.

Credits: "Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 3" (00:28)

Credits: "Wilbur Goes Poor Episode 3"

"In Your Hands" (05:31)

Violence claims hundreds of lives a year in Aguablanca, Cali Colombia--the 11th most violent city in the world. The suspense builds as a man walks the neighborhood reminding kids to come "work." The surprise ending offers hope and encouragement as the youth arrive and practice salsa dancing.

Credits: "In Your Hands" (00:19)

Credits: "In Your Hands"

"Mauá Surroundings" (05:15)

Visit the Nova Luz district of Sao Paulo, where a new movement is reclaiming abandoned buildings for families. See firsthand the battle that pitches the rights of human beings to housing against the rights of the wealthy. Watch an "occupation" in action.

Credits: "Mauá Surroundings" (00:22)

Credits: Mauá "Surroundings"

"The OK Brothers" (01:59)

These brothers have one of the worst jobs in the world; they clean up after some of the 660 million Indians who lack toilets and must defecate in the open every day.

Credits: "The OK Brothers" (00:24)

Credits: "The OK Brothers"

"Voices of South Africa" (04:49)

People who are trying to make a living in Tembisa, South Africa tell their stories.

Credits: "Voices of South Africa" (00:14)

Credits: "Voices of South Africa"

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Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty—Why Poverty?

Part of the Series : Why Poverty?
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Economist Jeffrey Sachs has pointed out that for most of history, “everybody in the world was poor.” As societies grew richer, they formed different attitudes toward poverty. The Greeks thought it played an essential role in society, whereas the Chinese developed sophisticated programs to prevent famine and extreme need. And though the Industrial Revolution promised an end to hunger, it may have ended up widening the gap between rich and poor. This animated film takes a look at the history of poverty, from Paleolithic times through to today’s era of financial meltdowns, examining the variety of perspectives about it, what drives it, and what might halt it for good. A viewable/printable instructor’s guide is available online. A part of the series Why Poverty? (Portions with English subtitles, 58 minutes + 39 minutes of bonus material) 

Length: 97 minutes

Item#: BVL55240

ISBN: 978-0-81608-760-0

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

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72nd Annual Peabody Award winner

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Only available in USA and Canada.