The Making of Modern Burma

The Making of Modern Burma

The Making of Modern Burma

The Making of Modern Burma

Synopsis

The Making of Modern Burma is a history of the country from the nineteenth to early twentieth century. In a sophisticated and much-needed account, the author argues that many aspects of contemporary Burmese society are the creations of the nineteenth century when Burma fought the British and tried to modernize the country. The book will be an important resource for students and policymakers as a basis for understanding contemporary politics and the challenges of the modern state, as well as for historians interested in British colonial expansion during the period.

Excerpt

Late in the afternoon, on 29 November 1885, King Thibaw of Burma appeared at the steps of his summer palace, holding the hand of his queen and half-sister Supayalat. The evening before, a British expeditionary force under the command of General Sir Harry Prendergast had entered Mandalay unopposed and had ordered the king's immediate and unconditional surrender. A request to remain in the city for another day had been rejected by General Prendergast and, instead, Thibaw was given a few more hours to collect his possessions and leave his kingdom forever. And so, after a brief interview with the gentleman from The Times, the last of the Konbaung monarchs abdicated his throne and began his journey into exile.

Thibaw and Supayalat were accompanied by their three young daughters and other close family, as well as by several ministers of state and an entourage of servants carrying trunks full of treasure and royal costumes. Riding in an ordinary ox-drawn carriage, they slowly made their way out though the Kyaw Moe gate to the south and then towards the steamer Thooreah anchored in the Irrawaddy river three miles away. Several hundred British soldiers, men of the 67th Hampshire Regiment, escorted the royal party as they emerged unceremoniously from the walled city and proceeded through the thick crowds of ordinary people who had gathered to watch. As Thibaw made his way past, the townspeople seemed only then to realise that he was being taken away. Thousands prostrated themselves on the ground alongside the road to the pier. Some cried out and several stones and clumps of earth were thrown at the scarlet-coated troops marching alongside the carriage.

Nearer the river, Supayalat called on a few of the British soldiers close at hand and then favoured one by granting him the privilege of lighting her royal cigar. When they finally reached the Irrawaddy after dark, Thibaw, a white umbrella of royalty held high over his head, walked across a narrow wooden plank and onto the waiting steamer, never to set foot on Burmese soil again. Aged 28, he would spend the remaining thirty years of his life as a state pensioner and prisoner just outside the town of Ratanagiri along western India's steamy Konkan coast.

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