Ì The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma ✓ Download by è Thant Myint-U

Ì The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma ✓ Download by è Thant Myint-U Admittedly, I first picked up this book because I m a Burmese American While this is clearly the most accessible history of Burma, I think what I liked about it the most was that it was a history of a mid to small sized multicultural power sitting between larger forces China, India, Britain, Japan While there are quite a few books on the big powers and how they interact, this book is fascinating in that it looks not only at how smaller powers navigate, but also how small events in large powers can have significant implications for the countries around them Also, given that Burma is a natural crossroads, bringing in people from all across Asia and a few other places, it was quite interesting to see the interactions between people of different cultures and how Burma has been trying to deal with the fact that it has always been a multi ethnic nation.
I know some Burmese will challenge Thant Myint U for his conciliatory stance towards working with the Burmese government, but this is a strong book with much to teach people about not only Burma, but about how smaller countries work and how multi ethnic communities work and don t work in other countries.
Before I read this book, I knew little to nothing about Burmese history Although Mr Thant Myingt U obviously has a masterful grasp of his country s history and makes an admirable attempt to guide the reader through Burmese history from its mythical origins right up to the tragically futile monk protests in 2007, I still feel as if I know functionally nothing That may be because there are too many minor details thrown out, especially regarding trifling royals and unimportant battles in unimportant towns These details detract from what could have been a fully fledged story line Also bothersome is the strange mixture of overarching history and personal biography It could have worked but it doesn t On the plus side, the sections on Arakan, a western region at the crossroads of Islam and Buddhism, and the Burmese theater during WWII are excellent.
Three Favorite Passages 1 It was also because Burma was almost entirely unknown To the extent that it was thought about at all, it had the image of an exotic and dreamy backwater, a gentle Buddhist country, lost in time and quietly isolated, hardly the sort of location for a foreign policy crisis It was an offbeat tourist destination, unspoiled compared with neighboring Thailand, perhaps even a model of an alternative approach to life, unhurried and without the extremes of modern capitalism and communism Prodemocracy demonstrations in Burma It was like hearing about a coup in Shangri La What was to be done with a place like that 2 Like Sarmarkand or Zanzibar, Mandalay is one of those names that evoke a sense of far flung exoticism, of a climate different from Europe, outlandish dress, strange smells, and unchanging customs Most people then are surprised to learn that Mandalay is not very old, that it is in fact quite young, having been built in the same year that Macy s department store first opened its doors to customers in downtown Manhattan 3 The Burmese civil war is the longest running armed conflict in the world and has continued, in one form or another, from independence to the present day In a way, Burma is a place where the Second World War never really stopped Ever since the first Japanese bombers hummed overhead and dropped their payloads over downtown Rangoon, the country has never known peace For a brief period, between August 1945 and independence in January 1948, there were no open hostilities And since then, there have been times, like today, when fighting is sporadic, small encounters here and there, affecting only isolated areas But the gun has never been taken away from Burmese politics And no government has governed the entirety of Burma since 1941 Elections have never been held across the entire country, and no government has been able to conduct a proper census Few border regions are even today free of rebel control There has not been a succession of wars rather the same war, the same rhetoric, and sometimes even the same old rifles have staggered on and on, with only minor changes to the cast and plot and a few new special effects Some of the very same groups that first took up arms in the 1940s, when Mahatma Gandhi was languishing in a British jail and Joe Louis was heavyweight champion of the world, are still duking it out today Perhaps a million dead, millions displaced, an economy in ruins, and robust military machine designed to fight the enemy within have been the main stuff of Burma s postindependence history.
When I first went to Myanmar, it was via the one hour, dirt cheap Air Asia flight to Yangon, and to go from aggressively shopping malled and Starbucked Bangkok to the dusty ruins of colonial Rangoon in an hour s time is a jarring experience to say the least.
The question, then, is how did Myanmar fall that far behind so much of the rest of East Asia Thant Myint U is out to demolish a number of widely held myths, but he starts much earlier, with the slow nibbling to death of the Burmese Empire, its subsequent subjugation, and eventually the war and chaos that started three quarters of a century ago and continues to this day.
More impressively, it s really well written without being simplified I don t normally read narrative history books like this, but I m often glad when I do, and this was one such case.
Probably the first book about my own country that I read Personal but at the same times Thant Myint U tries to make is historically correct as best he can, I guess because I heard some people saying that some of the facts are not accurate I was too naive to pay attention to those details when I first read though.
Admittedly, I first picked up this book because I m a Burmese American While this is clearly the most accessible history of Burma, I think what I liked about it the most was that it was a history of a mid to small sized multicultural power sitting between larger forces China, India, Britain, Japan While there are quite a few books on the big powers and how they interact, this book is fascinating in that it looks not only at how smaller powers navigate, but also how small events in large powers can have significant implications for the countries around them Also, given that Burma is a natural crossroads, bringing in people from all across Asia and a few other places, it was quite interesting to see the interactions between people of different cultures and how Burma has been trying to deal with the fact that it has always been a multi ethnic nation.
I know some Burmese will challenge Thant Myint U for his conciliatory stance towards working with the Burmese government, but this is a strong book with much to teach people about not only Burma, but about how smaller countries work and how multi ethnic communities work and don t work in other countries.
Before I read this book, I knew little to nothing about Burmese history Although Mr Thant Myingt U obviously has a masterful grasp of his country s history and makes an admirable attempt to guide the reader through Burmese history from its mythical origins right up to the tragically futile monk protests in 2007, I still feel as if I know functionally nothing That may be because there are too many minor details thrown out, especially regarding trifling royals and unimportant battles in unimportant towns These details detract from what could have been a fully fledged story line Also bothersome is the strange mixture of overarching history and personal biography It could have worked but it doesn t On the plus side, the sections on Arakan, a western region at the crossroads of Islam and Buddhism, and the Burmese theater during WWII are excellent.
Three Favorite Passages 1 It was also because Burma was almost entirely unknown To the extent that it was thought about at all, it had the image of an exotic and dreamy backwater, a gentle Buddhist country, lost in time and quietly isolated, hardly the sort of location for a foreign policy crisis It was an offbeat tourist destination, unspoiled compared with neighboring Thailand, perhaps even a model of an alternative approach to life, unhurried and without the extremes of modern capitalism and communism Prodemocracy demonstrations in Burma It was like hearing about a coup in Shangri La What was to be done with a place like that 2 Like Sarmarkand or Zanzibar, Mandalay is one of those names that evoke a sense of far flung exoticism, of a climate different from Europe, outlandish dress, strange smells, and unchanging customs Most people then are surprised to learn that Mandalay is not very old, that it is in fact quite young, having been built in the same year that Macy s department store first opened its doors to customers in downtown Manhattan 3 The Burmese civil war is the longest running armed conflict in the world and has continued, in one form or another, from independence to the present day In a way, Burma is a place where the Second World War never really stopped Ever since the first Japanese bombers hummed overhead and dropped their payloads over downtown Rangoon, the country has never known peace For a brief period, between August 1945 and independence in January 1948, there were no open hostilities And since then, there have been times, like today, when fighting is sporadic, small encounters here and there, affecting only isolated areas But the gun has never been taken away from Burmese politics And no government has governed the entirety of Burma since 1941 Elections have never been held across the entire country, and no government has been able to conduct a proper census Few border regions are even today free of rebel control There has not been a succession of wars rather the same war, the same rhetoric, and sometimes even the same old rifles have staggered on and on, with only minor changes to the cast and plot and a few new special effects Some of the very same groups that first took up arms in the 1940s, when Mahatma Gandhi was languishing in a British jail and Joe Louis was heavyweight champion of the world, are still duking it out today Perhaps a million dead, millions displaced, an economy in ruins, and robust military machine designed to fight the enemy within have been the main stuff of Burma s postindependence history.
When I first went to Myanmar, it was via the one hour, dirt cheap Air Asia flight to Yangon, and to go from aggressively shopping malled and Starbucked Bangkok to the dusty ruins of colonial Rangoon in an hour s time is a jarring experience to say the least.
The question, then, is how did Myanmar fall that far behind so much of the rest of East Asia Thant Myint U is out to demolish a number of widely held myths, but he starts much earlier, with the slow nibbling to death of the Burmese Empire, its subsequent subjugation, and eventually the war and chaos that started three quarters of a century ago and continues to this day.
More impressively, it s really well written without being simplified I don t normally read narrative history books like this, but I m often glad when I do, and this was one such case.
Probably the first book about my own country that I read Personal but at the same times Thant Myint U tries to make is historically correct as best he can, I guess because I heard some people saying that some of the facts are not accurate I was too naive to pay attention to those details when I first read though.
Fantastic read from start to finish Burma is so much than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi This book presents a pragmatic historical account as to how and why Burma ended up in its tragic state although current situation is clearly better now From the innately war prone ancient monarchs, the British invasion, the Japanese invasion, the Indian immigration, the complex dynamics of ethnic groups, and to the rise of the still strong Military junta This is a must read for anyone that has keen interest in Asian history It is sometimes humorous too, and always told in a narrative that takes a firm hold on the reader which I find refreshing out of most non fiction books I have read.
I liked this book, and it had the desired effect of informing about the history of Burma, going in effectively blind It is well researched, well explained and the writing is clear and accessible However, if not for the fact I m doubtful a better introduction exists, I would be frustrated by the lack of detail in parts Sometimes long periods and complicated events are given only a few passing sentences This applies to historical conflicts and personal anecdotes I would have loved to hear about U Thant s UN career, for instance A longer volume would have given this complicated topic justice I also feel that the writing style could be ambitious, although this is personal preference This is still nevertheless a great introduction to Burma and the writer does an excellent job of explaining the country s origins and future challenges, but it falls short of being a great book in its own right.
For Nearly Two Decades Western Governments And A Growing Activist Community Have Been Frustrated In Their Attempts To Bring About A Freer And Democratic Burma Through Sanctions And Tourist Boycotts Only To See An Apparent Slide Toward Even Harsher Dictatorship But What Do We Really Know About Burma And Its History And What Can Burma S Past Tell Us About The Present And Even Its Future In The River Of Lost Footsteps, Thant Myint U Tells The Story Of Modern Burma, In Part Through A Telling Of His Own Family S History, In An Interwoven Narrative That Is By Turns Lyrical, Dramatic, And Appalling His Maternal Grandfather, U Thant, Rose From Being The Schoolmaster Of A Small Town In The Irrawaddy Delta To Become The UN Secretary General In The S And On His Father S Side, The Author Is Descended From A Long Line Of Courtiers Who Served At Burma S Court Of Ava For Nearly Two Centuries Through Their Stories And Others, He Portrays Burma S Rise And Decline In The Modern World, From The Time Of Portuguese Pirates And Renegade Mughal Princes Through The Decades Of British Colonialism, The Devastation Of World War II, And A Sixty Year Civil War That Continues Today And Is The Longest Running War Anywhere In The World The River Of Lost Footsteps Is A Work Both Personal And Global, A Distinctive Contribution That Makes Burma Accessible And Enthralling Thant Myint U, Educated At Harvard And Cambridge, Has Served On Three United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, In Cambodia And In The Former Yugoslavia, And Was Recently The Head Of Policy Planning In The UN S Department Of Political Affairs He Lives In New York City Burma has long been in the news After the most recent cycle of uprising crackdown, I looked for a book that could give me some historic and political background for this country that has so often attracted the world s attention, if not its interest.
Incredibly enough, finding such a book is not easy Most books about Burma are travel guides, or have some sort of George Orwell connection This book, written by U Thant s grandson, is probably the best introduction to Burma you can find However, the picture he paints is complex, and ultimately disquieting, The West s pat certainty that democracy will cure all of Burma s ills cannot survive a reading of this book Thant begins with the moment in the 1880 s when British gunboats steamed up the Irawaddy Delta and deposed the last feckless king of Burma At that moment, Burma became a British colony and entered the modern world, whether it wanted to or not Thant describes this moment in stunning detail, from Randolph Churchill s ministry, which directed the Burma mission I refuse to call it the Mission to Burma , to the last confused days of the Burmese monarchy Reading this, one suspects that the memory of Burma s lost monarchy remains a bitter one Thant then sets out a relatively brief history of Burma from its earliest days, up to the arrival of the British The sections of the book dealing with pre colonial Burma are fascinating Burma is huge, about the size of Germany, and yet lightly populated Nonetheless, empires rose and fell within its territory, often expanding into China and Thailand Burma is also a crazyquilt of ethnic groups including whole villages of mixed Burmese and Scottish descent Aye, Laddie Tis troo , and Thant does a good job describing their histories and places in Burmese history This section of the book is excellent for conjuring up a lost world Unfortunately, it is also the shortest Burma s colonial experience was relatively short, and ended with the Japanese invasion in WW2 With the British gone, modern Burmese history began It is here that the major players of Burmese politics come in This is the longest section of the book, and Thant sometimes gets too detailed, going as far as to reconstruct student debates from the 1930 s Still, it s important information if you want to know how Burma got where it is today Sadly, Burma s post WW2 leaders divided along the familiar ideological lines of the 20th century fascists including Aung San Suu Kyi s father vs socialists Those Burmese like Thant s family, who were western educated and politically liberal, had nowhere to go Ultimately, post war Burma descended into near chaos A communist insurgency took hold The Karen tribe, and others, launched a civil war that continues to this day The national government never found its footing, and key figures were assassinated The rise of the junta almost seems inevitable Given the experiences of neighbors like Viet Nam and Cambodia, the junta no doubt feels that it has been the sole guarantor of Burma s safety Thant has no sympathy for the military, but he also makes clear that any post junta government would face the staggering task of uniting a fractious, demoralized nation made poor by decades of international sanctions It is unclear whether such unification could ever occur wihout some sort of heavy handed state action I should also note that Thant considers the current sanctions regime to be utterly useless and counter productive, given that they maintain Burma s isolation, exacerbate its poverty, and do little to harm the interests of the government In the end, Burma s generals could be protected by their country s status as a backwater in international affairs Burma s tragedy is not interfering with the flow of commece It is not crossing borders Burma s army is a menace only to those inside Burma itself Finally, Burma s problems do not reduce themselves to a simple bumpersticker like Tibet or Darfur This is a great book, but it s not really a call to action Instead, it is a reminder that even matters of good vs evil can contain ambiguities that can bring one up short.
My sister and I visited Myanmar this past year and this was one of 2 books in the Durham County Library on Burma The other was by Aung San Suu Kyi This is the story of Burma s history written by U Thant s son It is rather dry and I did not finish it In 1885 at the encouragement of the business class in England Winston Churchill s dad Lord Randolph decided that Britain needed to take over Burma in order open it s markets to British goods and to make a back door to China for the same purpose.
The British sent battleships up the Irrawaddy River under General Prendergast and with little resistance deposed King Thibaw It soon discovered as the Americans did in Iraq that far from being welcomed as the over thrower of a corrupt despot, the Burmese army joined with bandits for a guerrilla war And just like the Americans in Iraq the British did culturally very insensitive things When the Kings white elephant died they dragged it out of the palace grounds Burmese people looked at this elephant nearly as a deity and were horrified at the British treatment of it When the new British administrator gave his initial speech to the court officials they all remained standing a tremendous insult in Burmese culture To a king they would have been prostrate The author points out like the Americans in Iraq the British had very little idea of what to do after they conquered Burma They thought it would all be easy.
Burma consists of the fertile Irrawaddy River valley with mountains on the northern border with China and on the west along the border or Thailand and in the east the swamp and marshes near Bangladesh For thousands of years many different armies swept through this area, Chinese Mongolians, Indian and various homegrown varieties There was trade with China and Persia Rome spoke of the people in the Irrawaddy valley By the eighth century what is now Burma had been conquered by a group known as Nanzhao who set up a capital at Pagan This empire faded by the tenth century In the 11th century the new leader arose, Aniruddha, who lead campaigns in every direction, even fighting down the Malay Peninsula By the 12th century Pagan was at the height of its glory and extent Mongol hordes in the 13th century brought terror destruction through Europe and Asia and Burma was not excepted The Mongols sent an army to crush Burma The Burmese forces numbering 60,000 including 2,000 elephants carrying wooden towers with 16 armed men met the Turkish and Mongol horseman Nasruddin, The Mongol leader, ordered his horseman to dismount, hide in the nearby tree line and direct their fire at the elephants who eventually panicked and fled The Mongols remounted and slaughtered the Burmese.
The Burmese people today look at this history of the remote past as long standing tradition of Burma, the Burmese and the Buddhist religion When the people of Mandalay mourned the exile of King Thibaw they felt they were mourning the loss of an institution that stretched back thousands of years In short the British ruled from 1885 to 1948 while they extracted as much teak, gold, rice as they could while suppressing constant uprisings of the 100 or tribes people They gave up in 1948 and a democracy was in place from 48 until 62 The country was in a constant state of civil war and when The Generals took over in 1962 and suppressed the fighting often brutally and many people were pleased However they were corrupt as could be and took over much of the economy, made non compete pacts with opium and later meth manufactures in the remote regions and closed the country off to the outside world Shades of North Korea here Eventually, various democratic uprising the generals realized they could not run the country and allowed elections in 2015 and now power share with democratically elected government.
This book is elicited by questions why has Burma s military dictatorship proved so enduring, and what can possibly bring back greater political freedom and democracy How should we think about the continuing war between Rangoon and ethnic minority based insurgencies Why has Burma, so rich in natural resources and seemingly once so well ahead of its Asian neighbors, fallen so behind More to the point, what is to be done The author tries to answers these by looking at history He makes the point Burmese issues are debated with a short term point of view Ignorance about what happened in the past and its influence on Burmese society makes it impossible to reach a solution The debate that comes out is too ahistorical, and lacks the nuance needed to understand a country so large and complex as Burma With that in mind, the author attempts to tell the story of his land, from thousands of years ago until today This is done beautifully as it focuses on the formation of the Burmese collective conscience, the book focuses mostly on the period until the 1989 student protests, and particularly on the XIXth century, when the court of Ava s attempts to expand its empire and gain recognition abroad were stopped by the empire making ambitions and economic interests of the British The challenge in defining what is Burma is that it is a patchwork of cultures and ethnicities First taken over by Indian princes, it was then overtaken by the Myanma, who originated in the Nanzhao Empire of Modern Southern China Indian and Muslims established themselves centuries before European adventurers looking for fortune in exotic lands came over The two interesting factors permeating Burmese history that serve as somehow unifying factors The first is Buddhism For many Burmese this history of the remote past offers up a sense of deep rooted tradition and of a long lasting association among Burma, the Burmese and the Buddhist religion Obviously, this excludes all the other religions present in the country, and is at the heart of the identity problems the country appears to encounter The other is a proud militaristic history, embedded in not only the memories of conquests in the region but also the pacification of internal strifes and rebellions This is clearer in the memory around the memory of King Bayinnaung, the XVIth century general turned king who took over several neighbouring kingoms, including Siam For many Burmese today the stories of Bayinnaung and his contemporaries are the stories of a nation naturally inclined to fracture but which through heroic action can be welded together and made whole, of a country that will fall apart without the strong lead of a soldier king When the English deposed Thibaw, they ended this heritage, flawed as it was and took away one of the stabilizing elements in the minds of the Burmese Alongside the humiliation of defeat, was the loss of the unifying factor offered by the soldier king The book s predicament is that many Burmese and outsiders see the country as a monolistically buddhist society who just needs a powerful ruler to achieve unity A look at the history shows Burma is complex than that, and that the only rulers with enough legitimacy to claim the status of soldier kings were deposed and stripped out of their authority A very interesting perspective, from a beautifuly written book.



I liked this book, and it had the desired effect of informing about the history of Burma, going in effectively blind It is well researched, well explained and the writing is clear and accessible However, if not for the fact I m doubtful a better introduction exists, I would be frustrated by the lack of detail in parts Sometimes long periods and complicated events are given only a few passing sentences This applies to historical conflicts and personal anecdotes I would have loved to hear about U Thant s UN career, for instance A longer volume would have given this complicated topic justice I also feel that the writing style could be ambitious, although this is personal preference This is still nevertheless a great introduction to Burma and the writer does an excellent job of explaining the country s origins and future challenges, but it falls short of being a great book in its own right.
Fantastic read from start to finish Burma is so much than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi This book presents a pragmatic historical account as to how and why Burma ended up in its tragic state although current situation is clearly better now From the innately war prone ancient monarchs, the British invasion, the Japanese invasion, the Indian immigration, the complex dynamics of ethnic groups, and to the rise of the still strong Military junta This is a must read for anyone that has keen interest in Asian history It is sometimes humorous too, and always told in a narrative that takes a firm hold on the reader which I find refreshing out of most non fiction books I have read.
Burma has long been in the news After the most recent cycle of uprising crackdown, I looked for a book that could give me some historic and political background for this country that has so often attracted the world s attention, if not its interest.
Incredibly enough, finding such a book is not easy Most books about Burma are travel guides, or have some sort of George Orwell connection This book, written by U Thant s grandson, is probably the best introduction to Burma you can find However, the picture he paints is complex, and ultimately disquieting, The West s pat certainty that democracy will cure all of Burma s ills cannot survive a reading of this book Thant begins with the moment in the 1880 s when British gunboats steamed up the Irawaddy Delta and deposed the last feckless king of Burma At that moment, Burma became a British colony and entered the modern world, whether it wanted to or not Thant describes this moment in stunning detail, from Randolph Churchill s ministry, which directed the Burma mission I refuse to call it the Mission to Burma , to the last confused days of the Burmese monarchy Reading this, one suspects that the memory of Burma s lost monarchy remains a bitter one Thant then sets out a relatively brief history of Burma from its earliest days, up to the arrival of the British The sections of the book dealing with pre colonial Burma are fascinating Burma is huge, about the size of Germany, and yet lightly populated Nonetheless, empires rose and fell within its territory, often expanding into China and Thailand Burma is also a crazyquilt of ethnic groups including whole villages of mixed Burmese and Scottish descent Aye, Laddie Tis troo , and Thant does a good job describing their histories and places in Burmese history This section of the book is excellent for conjuring up a lost world Unfortunately, it is also the shortest Burma s colonial experience was relatively short, and ended with the Japanese invasion in WW2 With the British gone, modern Burmese history began It is here that the major players of Burmese politics come in This is the longest section of the book, and Thant sometimes gets too detailed, going as far as to reconstruct student debates from the 1930 s Still, it s important information if you want to know how Burma got where it is today Sadly, Burma s post WW2 leaders divided along the familiar ideological lines of the 20th century fascists including Aung San Suu Kyi s father vs socialists Those Burmese like Thant s family, who were western educated and politically liberal, had nowhere to go Ultimately, post war Burma descended into near chaos A communist insurgency took hold The Karen tribe, and others, launched a civil war that continues to this day The national government never found its footing, and key figures were assassinated The rise of the junta almost seems inevitable Given the experiences of neighbors like Viet Nam and Cambodia, the junta no doubt feels that it has been the sole guarantor of Burma s safety Thant has no sympathy for the military, but he also makes clear that any post junta government would face the staggering task of uniting a fractious, demoralized nation made poor by decades of international sanctions It is unclear whether such unification could ever occur wihout some sort of heavy handed state action I should also note that Thant considers the current sanctions regime to be utterly useless and counter productive, given that they maintain Burma s isolation, exacerbate its poverty, and do little to harm the interests of the government In the end, Burma s generals could be protected by their country s status as a backwater in international affairs Burma s tragedy is not interfering with the flow of commece It is not crossing borders Burma s army is a menace only to those inside Burma itself Finally, Burma s problems do not reduce themselves to a simple bumpersticker like Tibet or Darfur This is a great book, but it s not really a call to action Instead, it is a reminder that even matters of good vs evil can contain ambiguities that can bring one up short.
My sister and I visited Myanmar this past year and this was one of 2 books in the Durham County Library on Burma The other was by Aung San Suu Kyi This is the story of Burma s history written by U Thant s son It is rather dry and I did not finish it In 1885 at the encouragement of the business class in England Winston Churchill s dad Lord Randolph decided that Britain needed to take over Burma in order open it s markets to British goods and to make a back door to China for the same purpose.
The British sent battleships up the Irrawaddy River under General Prendergast and with little resistance deposed King Thibaw It soon discovered as the Americans did in Iraq that far from being welcomed as the over thrower of a corrupt despot, the Burmese army joined with bandits for a guerrilla war And just like the Americans in Iraq the British did culturally very insensitive things When the Kings white elephant died they dragged it out of the palace grounds Burmese people looked at this elephant nearly as a deity and were horrified at the British treatment of it When the new British administrator gave his initial speech to the court officials they all remained standing a tremendous insult in Burmese culture To a king they would have been prostrate The author points out like the Americans in Iraq the British had very little idea of what to do after they conquered Burma They thought it would all be easy.
Burma consists of the fertile Irrawaddy River valley with mountains on the northern border with China and on the west along the border or Thailand and in the east the swamp and marshes near Bangladesh For thousands of years many different armies swept through this area, Chinese Mongolians, Indian and various homegrown varieties There was trade with China and Persia Rome spoke of the people in the Irrawaddy valley By the eighth century what is now Burma had been conquered by a group known as Nanzhao who set up a capital at Pagan This empire faded by the tenth century In the 11th century the new leader arose, Aniruddha, who lead campaigns in every direction, even fighting down the Malay Peninsula By the 12th century Pagan was at the height of its glory and extent Mongol hordes in the 13th century brought terror destruction through Europe and Asia and Burma was not excepted The Mongols sent an army to crush Burma The Burmese forces numbering 60,000 including 2,000 elephants carrying wooden towers with 16 armed men met the Turkish and Mongol horseman Nasruddin, The Mongol leader, ordered his horseman to dismount, hide in the nearby tree line and direct their fire at the elephants who eventually panicked and fled The Mongols remounted and slaughtered the Burmese.
The Burmese people today look at this history of the remote past as long standing tradition of Burma, the Burmese and the Buddhist religion When the people of Mandalay mourned the exile of King Thibaw they felt they were mourning the loss of an institution that stretched back thousands of years In short the British ruled from 1885 to 1948 while they extracted as much teak, gold, rice as they could while suppressing constant uprisings of the 100 or tribes people They gave up in 1948 and a democracy was in place from 48 until 62 The country was in a constant state of civil war and when The Generals took over in 1962 and suppressed the fighting often brutally and many people were pleased However they were corrupt as could be and took over much of the economy, made non compete pacts with opium and later meth manufactures in the remote regions and closed the country off to the outside world Shades of North Korea here Eventually, various democratic uprising the generals realized they could not run the country and allowed elections in 2015 and now power share with democratically elected government.
This book is elicited by questions why has Burma s military dictatorship proved so enduring, and what can possibly bring back greater political freedom and democracy How should we think about the continuing war between Rangoon and ethnic minority based insurgencies Why has Burma, so rich in natural resources and seemingly once so well ahead of its Asian neighbors, fallen so behind More to the point, what is to be done The author tries to answers these by looking at history He makes the point Burmese issues are debated with a short term point of view Ignorance about what happened in the past and its influence on Burmese society makes it impossible to reach a solution The debate that comes out is too ahistorical, and lacks the nuance needed to understand a country so large and complex as Burma With that in mind, the author attempts to tell the story of his land, from thousands of years ago until today This is done beautifully as it focuses on the formation of the Burmese collective conscience, the book focuses mostly on the period until the 1989 student protests, and particularly on the XIXth century, when the court of Ava s attempts to expand its empire and gain recognition abroad were stopped by the empire making ambitions and economic interests of the British The challenge in defining what is Burma is that it is a patchwork of cultures and ethnicities First taken over by Indian princes, it was then overtaken by the Myanma, who originated in the Nanzhao Empire of Modern Southern China Indian and Muslims established themselves centuries before European adventurers looking for fortune in exotic lands came over The two interesting factors permeating Burmese history that serve as somehow unifying factors The first is Buddhism For many Burmese this history of the remote past offers up a sense of deep rooted tradition and of a long lasting association among Burma, the Burmese and the Buddhist religion Obviously, this excludes all the other religions present in the country, and is at the heart of the identity problems the country appears to encounter The other is a proud militaristic history, embedded in not only the memories of conquests in the region but also the pacification of internal strifes and rebellions This is clearer in the memory around the memory of King Bayinnaung, the XVIth century general turned king who took over several neighbouring kingoms, including Siam For many Burmese today the stories of Bayinnaung and his contemporaries are the stories of a nation naturally inclined to fracture but which through heroic action can be welded together and made whole, of a country that will fall apart without the strong lead of a soldier king When the English deposed Thibaw, they ended this heritage, flawed as it was and took away one of the stabilizing elements in the minds of the Burmese Alongside the humiliation of defeat, was the loss of the unifying factor offered by the soldier king The book s predicament is that many Burmese and outsiders see the country as a monolistically buddhist society who just needs a powerful ruler to achieve unity A look at the history shows Burma is complex than that, and that the only rulers with enough legitimacy to claim the status of soldier kings were deposed and stripped out of their authority A very interesting perspective, from a beautifuly written book.

Thant Myint U was educated at Harvard and Cambridge University and later taught history for several years as a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge He has also served on three United Nations peacekeeping operations, in Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat in New York He is the author of a personal history of Burma, The River of Lost Footsteps.