The Historiography of the British Empire-Commonwealth: Trends, Interpretations and Resources

By Robin W. Winks | Go to book overview

BURMA

Hugh Tinker

ALONG WITH South Africa and Eire, Burma must be accounted as a failure of the Commonwealth concept. Perhaps in all three cases, among the reasons for this failure we may detect a narrow, introspective nationalism which never looked beyond its own confines. A survey of historical writing and the historical tradition in Burma appears to lend support to this view. We may look in vain for that sense of wider horizons which can be found in Indian historical writing: whether in the imperialist vein of Lyall or Curzon, or among nationalist historians such as K. M. Panikkar or C. S. Venkatachar. The history of Burma has been set down by two groups of scholars: monks and officials. The monastic tradition of scholarship was, of course, indigenous: though one might argue that it has a Western counterpart in the school of Christian missionary writers (mainly American) who form an important source of knowledge on the changing mores of the peoples of Burma. The official tradition flourished under the Burmese kings and continued as the main seedbed of historical research during the British period.

However, the first important historical work with which we ought to be concerned belonged to neither the official nor the monastic group. U Kala, author of the Maha Yazawin Gyi ("Great Chronicle") was an independent writer who, coming from a wealthy family, compiled his study as an attempt at exact scholarship. He drew upon earlier chronicles for his source material, combining critical judgment with a fine prose style. He treated the history of Burma from its legendary origins down to the early eighteenth century.1 U Kala provided the basis for the next major history, the Hman Nan Yazawindaw Gyi or "Great Royal Glass Palace Chronicle." This was the combined work of

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1
U Kala produced three versions of his history: The Great Chronicle, Maha Yazawin Gyi, the Middle Chronicle, Yazawin Lat, and the Little Chronicle, or Yazawin Gyok. The Great Chronicle runs to twenty volumes, of which the second volume was published by the Burma Research Society ( Rangoon) in 1932

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The Historiography of the British Empire-Commonwealth: Trends, Interpretations and Resources
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors ix
  • Introduction 3
  • The American Continental Colonies in the Empire 23
  • The Empire Since 1783 46
  • Canada 69
  • Australia 137
  • New Zealand 174
  • The British Territories in the Pacific 197
  • South Africa 212
  • British Central Africa 237
  • British East Africa 248
  • British West Africa 261
  • Egypt and the Sudan 279
  • Great Britain and Inter­national Trusteeship: the Mandate System 296
  • Gibraltar, Malta, and Cyprus 312
  • Ireland's Commonwealth Years, 1922-1949 326
  • The British West Indies 344
  • India 357
  • Pakistan 396
  • Ceylon 421
  • Burma 448
  • Malaysia 460
  • Commonwealth Literature: Developments and Prospects 493
  • Appendix: An American Report 523
  • Index 529
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