Periodical History of Myanmar

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There were mainly 3 main well-known empires in the Myanmar History. The First Myanmar Empire was created by King Anawrahta of the Bagan Dynasty (1044-1077 AD). The Second Myanmar Empire was created by King Bayinnaung of the Taungoo Dynasty (1551-1581 AD). The Third Myanmar Empire was led by King Alaungpaya of the Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1760 AD).

These three great kings were well-known in the Myanmar history for their bravery and good leadership. In 1885, King Thibaw, Queen Supaya Latt and the royal family were taken to Ratanagiri, India and Myanmar fell under the British Rule. Myanmar became a British Colony from 1885 until 1948. To see the History of Myanmar more clearly, the following Eras are divided.

  •     The Mon Era
  •     The Pyu Era
  •     The Bagan Kingdom
  •     Inwa and Bago Era
  •     The Taungoo Dynasty
  •     The Konbaung Dynasty
  •     War with British

The Mon Era

Humans lived in the region that is now Myanmar as early as 11,000 years ago. The first identifiable civilization is that of the Mon. The Mon probably began migrating into the area in about 3000 BC, and their first kingdom Suwarnabhumi, was founded around the port of Thaton in about 300 BC. Spoken tradition suggests that they had contact with Buddhism via seafaring as early as the 3rd century BC, though definitely by the 2nd century BC when they received an envoy of monks from Ashoka. Much of the Mon's written records have been destroyed through wars. The Mons blended Indian and Mon culture together in a hybird of the two civilizations. By the mid-9th century, they had come to dominate all of southern Myanmar.
The Pyu Era

The Pyu arrived in Myanmar in the 7th century and established city kingdoms at Binnaka, Mongamo, Sri Ksetra, and Halingyi. During this period, Myanmar was part of an overland trade route from China to India. Chinese sources state that the Pyu controlled 18 kingdoms and describe them as a humane and peaceful people. The Pyu capital of Halingyi fell to the kingdom of Nanchao in the mid-9th century, ending their period of dominance.
The Bagan Kingdom

To the north another group of people, the Burmans began infiltrating the area as well. By 849, they had founded a powerful kingdom centered on the city of Pagan and filled the void left by the Pyu. The kingdom grew in relative isolation until the reign of Anawrahta (1044 - 77) who successfully unified all of Myanmar by defeating the Mon city of Thaton in 1057. Consolidation was accomplised under his successors Kyanzittha (1084-1112) and Alaungsithu (1112-1167), so that by the mid-12th century, most of Southeast Asia was under the control of either the Bagan Kingdom or the Khmer empire. The Bagan kingdom went into decline as more land and resources fell into the hands of the powerful sangha (monkhood) and the Mongols threatened from the north. The last true ruler of Bagan, Narathihapate (reigned 1254-87) felt confident in his ability to resist the Mongols and advanced into Yunnan in 1277 to make war upon them. He was thouroughly crushed at the Battle of Ngasaunggyan, and Bagan resistance virtually collapsed. The king was assassinated by his own son, but the dynasty was soon brought to an end in 1289, when the mongols installed a puppet ruler in Myanmar.
Inwa and Bago

After the collapse of Bagan authority, Myanmar was divided once again. The Burmans had restablished themselves at the city of Inwa by 1364, where Bagan culture was revived and a great age of Burmese literature ensued. The kingdom lacked easily defendable borders, however, and was overrun by the Shan in 1527.
To the south, the Mons reestablished themselves at Bago, and under their king, Dhammazedi (reigned 1472-92), entered a golden age as well, becoming a great center of commerce and Therinwada Buddhism.
The Taungoo Dynasty

Surviors of the destruction of Inwa eventually established a new kingdom centered on Taungoo in 1531 led by Tabinshwehti (reigned 1531-50), who once again unified most of Myanmar. By this time, the geopolitical situation in Southeast Asia had changed drastically. The Shan gained power in a new kingdom in the North, Ayutthaya (Siam), while the Portugese had arrived in the south and conquered Malacca. With the coming of European traders, Myanmar was once again an important trading center, and Tabinshwehti moved his capital to Bago due to its commercial value. Tabinshwehti's brother-in-law, Bayinnaung (ruled 1551-81) succeeded to the throne and proceeded on a campaign of conquest conquering several states, including Manipur (1560) and even Ayutthaya (1569). His wars stretched Myanmar to the limits of its resources, however, and both Manipur and Ayutthaya were soon independant once again. Faced with rebellion by several cities and renewed Portugese incursions, the Tourngoo rulers withdrew from southern Myanmmar and founded a second dynasty at Inwa. Bayinnaung's grandson, Anaukpetlun, once again reunited Myanmar in 1613 and decisively defeated Portuguese attempts to take over Myanmar. His successor Thalun reestablished the priciples of the old Bagan kingdom, but spent too heavily on religious expenditure and paid to little attention to the southern part of his kingdom. Encouraged by the French in India, Bago finally rebelled against Inwa, further weakening the state, which fell in 1752.

The Konbaung Dynasty

It did not take long for a new dynasty to arise and bring Myanmar to its greates power yet. A popular Burmese leader named Alaungpaya drove the Bago forces out of northern Myanmar by 1753, and by 1759 he had once again conquered Bago and southern Myanmar while also regaining control of Manipur. He established his capital at Rangoon. In 1760, he briefly conquered Tenasserim and marched on Ayutthaya, but his invasion failed and he was killed. His son Hsinbyushin (ruled 1763-76) returned to Ayutthaya in 1766 and had conquered it before the end of the next year. Even China took notice of Myanmar now, but Hsinbyushin sucessfully repulsed four Chinese invasions between 1766 and 1769. Another of Alaungpaya's sons, Bodawpaya (ruled 1781-1819), lost Ayutthaya, but added Arakan (1784) and Tenasserim (1793) to the kingdom as well. In Jaunary 1824, during the reign of King Bagyidaw (ruled 1819-37), a general named Maha Bandula succeeded in conquering Assam, bringing Myanmar face to face with British interests in India.
War with Britain

In response to the continued conquests of Myanmar, the British and the Siamese joined forces against Myanmar in 1824. The First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-26) ended in a British victory, and by the Treaty of Yandaboo, Myanmar lost Assam, Manipur, Arakan, and Tenasserim. As the century wore on, the British began to covet the natural resources of Myanmar and wanted to secure their supply route to Singapore. As a result, they provoked the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852, annexing Bago province and renaming it Lower Burma. The war resulted in a revolution in Myanmar, with King Pagin Min (ruled 1846-52) being replaced by his half brother, Mindon Min (ruled 1853-78)). King Mindon tried to modernise the Burmese state and economy to resist British encroachments, and he established a new capital at Mandalay, which he proceeded to fortify. This was not enough to stop the Birtish, however, who claimed that Mindon's son Thibaw Min (ruled 1878-85) was a tyrant intending to side with the French and declared war once again in 1885, conquering the remainder of the country in the Third Anglo-Burmese War.

During the British Ruling
Britain made all of Burma a province of India in 1886 with the capital at Rangoon. Traditional Myanmar society was drastically altered by the ending of the monarchy and the separation of church and state. Though war officially ended after only a couple of weeks, resistance continued in northern Myanmar until 1890, with the British finally resorting to a systematic destruction of villages and appointment of new officials to finally halt the guerilla activity. The economic nature of society also changed drastically. After the opening of the Suez Canal, the demand for Burmese rice grew and vast tracts of land were opened up for cultivation. However, in order to prepare the new land for cultivation, farmers were forced to borrow money from Indian moneylenders at high interest rates and were often eveicted for failure to pay back the loan. Imported Indian labor ended up with most of the jobs, and whole villages became lawless dens full of the unemployed. While the Burmese economy grew, all the power and wealth was in the hands of several British firms and the Burmese people did not reap the rewards.
A new generation of Burmese leaders arose in the early twentieth century from amongst the educated classes that were permitted to go to London to study law. They came away from this experience with the belief that the Burmese situation could be improved through peaceful protest and negotiations. Peaceful strikes in the early 1920s led to a constitutional reform in 1923 that created a partialy elected legislature with limited powers, but some people began to feel that the rate of change was not fast enough and the reforms not expansive enough. Some of these dissatisfied students founded a new group called Thakin (an ironic name as thakin means "master" in the Burmese language, and this was the term that students were required to use when addressing their British professors, whom they were coming to resent). A peasant rebellion led by Saya San that started in 1930 and lasted for two years gave the Thakin their chance. Though they did not actually participate in the rebellion, they did win the trust of the peasants and displaced the older generation of London-educated elites at the head of the Burmese nationalist movement. They staged a strike in 1936, which was notable because it was during this strike that Thakin Nu and Aung San joined the movement. The British seperated Burma from India in 1937 and granted the colony a new constitution calling for a fully elected assembly, but many Burmese felt that this was just a ploy to exclude them from any further Indian reforms. Ba Maw served as the first prime minister of Burma, but he was forced out by U Saw in 1939, who served as prime minister from 1940 to 1942.
Burmese nationalists saw the outbreak of World War II as an opportunity to extort concessions from the British in exchange for support in the war effort, but the British would have none of it, issuing an arrest warrant for Aung San, who escaped to China. The Japanese offered him support, and he briefly returned to Burma to enlist the aid of twenty-nine young men who went to Japan with him to receive military training as the so-called "Thirty Comrades." The Japanese quickly declared Burma independant, and when they occupied Bangkok in December 1941, Aung Sang announced the formation of the Burma Independence Army (BIA) in anticipation of Japanese liberation. The Japanese duly moved into Burma in 1942 and disbanded the BIA, forming the smaller Burma Defense Army in its place with Aung Sang still at the head. Ba Naw was declared head of state, and his cabinet included both Aung Sang and Thakin Nu.
It soon became apparent that Japanese promises of independence were merely a sham and that Ba Maw was just a puppet. As the war turned against the Japanese, they declared Burma a fully sovereign state in 1943, but this was just another facade. Disillusioned, Aung San began negotitations with Lord Mountbatten in October 1943 and officially joined the Allies with his renamed Burma National Army (BNA) in March 1945. During this period, Anung San sucessfully created a broad-based coalition of political parties called the Anti-Fascist Organization, renamed the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL), to govern the country. The Japanese were routed from Burma in May 1945.
The defeat of the Japanese brought a military administration and demands to try Aung San as a traitor for his early collaboration with the Japanese. Lord Mountbatten realized that this was an impossibility considering San's hold on the BNA and his popular appeal and sent the conciliatory Sir Hubert Rance to head the administration, who was able to win back the trust of both San and the general populace. After the war ended, the former civilian governor returned, and San was duly arrested. This nearly touched off a rebellion, but the British backed off and sent Rance back to restore order and faith. Negotiations began for Burmese independence, which were completed sucessfully in January 1947. The agreement left both the communist and conservative branches of the AFPFL dissatisfied, however, sending the communists underground and the conservatives into opposition. Another who was dissatisfied by the agreement was U Saw, who felt that Aung San had conceded to much in the negotiations. Consequently, he engineered the assassination of Aung San and nearly his entire cabinet in July. Thakin Nu was asked to form a new cabinet, and he presided over Burmese independence on January 4, 1948.



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