Early History of Burma – 5

Burma under the Burma Rule:

Burma began to take a new shape under British rule. Basically she remained a colony to be exploited by the mother country. But at the same time there was modernization of country both in the economic and political life.

In words of Clyde:

“By the beginning of the 20th century however, this agriculture society had been invaded by the aggressive laissez faire commercialism of British  Indian , and Chinese traders and businessmen. The development of teak industry and transformation of the Irrawady Delta jungles into rice fields created a new economy picture involving Burmese and Indian labours, Indian merchants and moneylenders , British capital and a British Burmese civil service.”

Public health services and roads were improved representative district councils were set up leading to a measure of self government. British rule also bought peace and stability which replaced factional strifes and was a welcome.

In the words of Latourette.

“ under the British rule, Burma prospered and for several decades was only slightly troubled by either internal disturbances or external politics.”

Hundreds of miles of railways were constructed and water ways were provided with steam boasts manufactured in Scotland. Schools on Western modal were encouraged. Canals were dug and hundred of miles of telegraph wires were strung. Electrical appliances were bought in and a western form of postal service was introduced. Rice cultivation increased and the country became a major rice producing area. Timber export was encouraged and petroleum was discovered.

To quote Latourette:

“western civilization was making its way also through Christian missions. Superficially westernization was proceeding apace.”

In bringing modernization in the economic field non-Burmese channels also played their part. Economic prosperity came with the investment of Indian, Chinese, Burmese capital. Similarly non skilled manpower was made available by India. Chinese also began to participate in the economic development and most of them were merchants and artisans. But they always spoke their own language and continued to wear their own dress and follow their own customs. They also did not leave their hereditary manners . Spiritually they wanted their lives aloof. Industries received boost. Christianity could be spread primarily among the non-Burmese , who were settled in Burma for long.

Conclusion :

British advancement into Burmese territory was primarily a tactical response to Burmese affronts against British citizens and employees of the East India Company. British annexation of Burmese territory was both a strategic and tactical attempt to place the Burmese at a military disadvantage in the region, thus forestalling the need for future tactical response.

British education policies, in terms of their stated goals, were successful. The first aim which they sought was mass primary education. This was accomplished through the network of lay schools the British established and furthered by the growth of kyagng. The British were also successful in reaching their second goal of providing opportunities for advanced education.

They established a system of government high schools and technical schools which led to the development of Rangoon University in 1920. This represented the first organized school system ever established in Burma. A by-product of British education was Burma’s National Education Movement.

The composition of the movement reveals the strong influence of British schools; most adherents were students or recent graduates. More importantly, the entire movement was conducted via peaceful means. Thus, as opposed  to rebellions, there were boycotts and strikes, not the usual means of protest in pre-annexed Burma. To achieve their goals, the British had no need to rob the Burmese of their distinctiveness.

Thus the English ruled over Burma as a part of India, till the former was formally separated under the Government of India act 1935. Even after separation it continues to maintain close relations with India and is one of the most important importer of Burmese rice and India continued to provide man power to Burmese for their economic development.