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The Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business Paperback – January 10, 1994

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; Reprint edition (January 10, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871134691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871134691
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am the author of the forthcoming Magicians of the Gods, published on 10 November 2015, and of the major international bestsellers The Sign and the Seal, Fingerprints of the Gods, Heaven's Mirror, Underworld, and Supernatural.

I share below the story of the journey that led me to these books

In the early 1980's, when I was East Africa correspondent of The Economist, writing about wars, politics, economics and aid programmes, I had no idea where fate was going to lead me or what strange seas of thought I would find myself sailing on. But in 1983 I made my first visit to Axum in northern Ethiopia, then in the midst of a war zone, and found myself in the presence of an ancient monk outside a little chapel in the grounds of the cathedral of Saint Mary of Zion. The monk told me that the chapel was the sanctuary of the Ark of the Covenant and that he was the guardian of the Ark, the most sacred relic of the Bible, supposedly lost since Old Testament times. What he said seemed ludicrous but for some reason it intrigued me. I began to look into the Ethiopian claim and found much surprising and neglected evidence that supported it, not least the faint traces of a mission to Ethiopia undertaken by the Knights Templar in the twelfth century. I kept adding to that dossier of evidence while also continuing to pursue my current affairs interests (including Lords of Poverty, my controversial book about foreign aid, published in 1989), and finally, in 1992, I published The Sign and the Seal: A Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant, my first full-fledged investigation of a historical mystery.

As well as to Ethiopia and to Israel, my research for The Sign and the Seal had taken me to Egypt and opened my eyes to the incredible enigma of the Great Pyramid of Giza, while the "technological" aspects of the Ark (shooting out bolts of fire, striking people dead, etc) had alerted me to the existence of out of place technologies in antiquity. The stage was now set for my next project - a worldwide investigation into the possibility of a lost, prehistoric civilisation that resulted, in 1995, in the publication of Fingerprints of the Gods, undoubtedly my best known book. The Message of the Sphinx (co-authored with Robert Bauval) followed in 1996, looking specifically into the mysteries of the Great Sphinx of Giza, and then in 1998 Heaven's Mirror, photographed by my wife Santha Faiia, which shows why many ancient sites in all parts of the globe replicate the patterns of constellations on the ground and are aligned to important celestial events such as the rising points of the sun on the equinoxes and the solstices. In 2002, I published Underworld, the result of five years of scuba diving across all the world's oceans to find ancient ruins submerged by rising sea levels at the end of the Ice Age.

After Underworld, I decided to step away from lost civilisation mysteries for a while and my next non-fiction book, Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, published in 2005, focussed on shamanism, altered states of consciousness and the astonishing universal themes that appear in rock and cave art from deepest antiquity right through to the paintings done by shamans in the Amazon rainforest today.

From my years as a journalist I've always distrusted armchair theorising and believed I have a responsibility to seek out direct personal, "boots on the ground" experience of what I'm writing about. That was why I did five years of often difficult and dangerous scuba diving for Underworld. And it's also why, as part of my research for Supernatural I travelled to the Amazon to drink the visionary brew Ayahuasca with shamans there. As well as better equipping me to write Supernatural, my experiences in the Amazon changed my life and brought out a new side of my own creativity. I've continued working with Ayahuasca ever since and in 2006, during a series of sessions in Brazil, in a ceremonial space overlooked by images of a blue goddess, my visions gave me the basic characters, dilemmas and plot of the book that would become my first novel, Entangled, published in 2010. Entangled tells the story of two young women, one living 24,000 years ago in the Stone Age, and the other in modern Los Angeles, who are brought together by a supernatural being to do battle with a demon who travels through time.

Since the publication of Entangled I have also written the first two volumes of a series of three epic novels about the Spanish conquest of Mexico - the War God trilogy. The first volume, War God: Nights of the Witch, was published in 2013, and the second volume, War God: Return of the Plumed Serpent, was published in 2014. The third volume, War God: Apocalypse, is already more than half written and will be published in 2016 but in the meantime my new non-fiction book, Magicians of the Gods, is published on 10 November 2015. Magicians is the sequel to Fingerprints of the Gods, and presents all the new evidence that has emerged since 1995 for a great lost civilisation of prehistoric antiquity and for the global cataclysm that destroyed that civilisation almost 13,000 years ago - a cataclysm on such a scale that it forced mankind, as Plato put it, "to begin again like children with no memory of what went before."

My ideas on prehistory and on the mysterious nature of reality have made me something of a controversial figure. In 1999, for example BBC Horizon made a documentary ("Atlantis Reborn") attacking my position on the lost civilisation. But part of that documentary was found by the UK's Broadcasting Standards Commission to be unfair - the first time ever that the flagship Horizon series had been judged guilty of unfairness. The BBC took the problem seriously enough to put out a revised re-edited version of the programme a year later. More recently, in 2013, my TED talk "The War on Consciousness" was deleted from the TED Youtube channel on grounds that TED itself later admitted to be spurious by striking out every one of the objections it had originally raised to my talk. TED, however, refused to restore the talk to its Youtube channel resulting in dozens of pirate uploads all over the internet that have now registered well over a million views.

I make mistakes like everyone else, but ever since my time with The Economist I've felt it is important to strive for rigour and accuracy, to check facts, to set out my sources clearly and openly for all to see and to admit my mistakes when I make them. As I continue to explore extraordinary ideas in my works of non-fiction, and in my novels, I'll also continue to do that.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

110 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Sithara Batcha on May 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Disclosure time- I work in the aid industry.

While I agree with much of what Hancock has to say (see below), this book is somewhat one-sided. Aid can reasonably claim a share in some positive world developments, such as rising life expectancy rates, decreased infant mortality, increase in primary education and literacy, growth in per capita GDP, and others. Undoubtedly, success has been patchy, and some areas, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, are worse off than they were fifty years ago, before the advent of the international aid industry. But in detailing its extensive failures, one should not completely ignore its successes (even if they maybe much less than what the aid industry claims).

With all that being said, I think a book of this sort is a must read for all aid workers, to bring us face to face with dark side of our work.

Here is a list of criticisms Hancock has about the international aid industry, and my own impressions.

1. International aid is a big bureaucracy more intent on keeping itself going than helping the poor.

My response- true- International aid is a huge bureaucracy. I spend my time writing and reading memos, and trying to get them 'cleared' as fast as possible. I literally spend no time with the poor.

2. International aid agencies spend money on big, wasteful projects that harm the poor and decimate indigenous societies.

My response: True depending on the development agency/country mission. Agencies (and agency sub-divisions, such as country missions) with lots of funds go this route. The ones that don't have such large accounts hire 'technical experts' instead.

3.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Carlo Matthews on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Hancock exposes the seedy underbelly of development/aid as few have dared in the past. Those who live off this industry or have vested interests in spouting an image of Western superiority will rightly feel threatened by a book that unmasks supposed philanthropy and disinterestedness as a shameless money-making and exploitative sham. Hancock is relentless in revealing not only the inefficacy of many major projects, but also the attached strings of big business as well as the morally bankrupt nature of many of its protagonits. In addition, Hancock tellingly explores the mentality and logic behind NGO's as little more than another way of making a buck at the expense of the poor. Where would an industry that depends on poverty for its survival be left if the poverty it tackled were to be eradicated? Some who find this study too close to home will claim it is condescending and lacking in solutions (as one reveiwer here does). It is neither. Hancock vents moral indignity in a fitting context and offers alternative approaches which in some cases obviate the necessity for development/aid agencies as we know them altogether ("God forbid!" some will cry). This book deserves to be read by all who sincerely wish to see a change in the way development/aid is carried out and in the appalling poverty it is supposed to alleviate. The career-minded need not apply.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Edward Bosnar on April 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's too bad that updated editions of "Lords of Poverty" were never published; indeed, even this edition was out of print for several years before this reprint edition. Hancock's writing style here may be a sustained rant, but it nevertheless provides a great deal of useful information and tears down many of the misconceptions most Americans or Europeans may have about the international aid industry. Particularly interesting is his criticism of the various UN agencies and, especially, the World Bank and the IMF - whose projects all too often do more harm than good (if they do any good at all). Perhaps the most disturbing aspect exposed in this book is still quite valid today: that taxpayers in the big donor countries like the U.S., Germany, Japan, the U.K. etc. are footing the bill for many disastrous projects worldwide that make the lives of impoverished populations even worse and often destroy in the environment in the process. "Lords of Poverty" may be dated, but it's still well worth the read.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is getting a little dated now, but remains a classic critique of the international aid business. Using colourful anecdotes and solid stats, Graham Hancock convincingly demonstrates how the IMF, World Bank and other international aid/development agencies effectively worsen Third World poverty. What they do is transfer wealth from the poor to the rich in donor and recipient countries alike. In the 1st world, taxes of mainly not-particularly-rich people finance these international organizations, whose administrators often lead lives of incredible luxury. In the 3rd world, money from the organizations helps to sustain corrupt regimes and swell the bank accounts of their leaders, while in many cases the money eventually has to be repaid with interest by taxes which again tend to come mainly from the poor, thereby creating an extra burden for the people it was supposed in theory to help. Meanwhile the projects financed by the money are often wholly irrelevant to the needs of the recipient country, e.g. expressways in countries where only a rich minority own cars, and often the infrastructure is built by companies from the donor country (tied aid) and proceeds to fall to pieces long before the debt incurred has been paid off. This book caused a fair bit of controversy when first published, but was soon forgotten. It's been business as usual for the IMF etc ever since. Meanwhile Graham Hancock got so depressed with uncovering corruption in big aid agencies that he abandoned the field entirely and switched to writing all those speculative books about lost cities of the gods etc. -- yep, it's the very same Graham Hancock in case you're wondering.
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