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Play now 25 mins

Down and Out in Paris and London

25 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 08 October 2011

With a fierce debate raging across Europe over public finances, this documentary has gone back to basics to compare conditions for the poor today with life before the introduction of the welfare state.

We've re-traced the steps of the author George Orwell who, in 1929, stepped from his own life of privilege into a battle against dirt and hunger, for his work published as Down and Out in Paris and London.

When he lived in France, Orwell was often starving and desperate for money, but when he crossed the Channel to seek his fortune in Britain, the novelist lived the life of those who'd fallen even lower - he became a tramp on London's streets.

This of course, was more than 80 years ago - on the eve of the Great Depression - yet, as Emma Jane Kirby found out, as Europe tries to fend off another financial crisis, it's still very possible to follow Orwell's footsteps.

  • BBC Archive: George Orwell

    BBC Archive: George Orwell

    Archive documents chronicling author George Orwell's time at the BBC, from employment to resignation

    Read more on the BBC's Archive website
  • On the trail of George Orwell’s outcasts

    On the trail of George Orwell’s outcasts

    Some 80 years after George Orwell chronicled the lives of the hard-up and destitute in his book Down and Out in Paris and London, what has changed?

    Read more on the BBC News website


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