Early History of Burma – 1

  • Introduction:

Burma is a small Asian nation bordering India and china. She was a part of India till 1937 and was a part of British imperialism as well. She was declared as an independent country by the Government of India Act, 1935. It has a land area of 261,789 square miles and a population of 20 million people.

“About 66% people of the total population are Burmans, the remaining being the frontier people i.e. the Shans, Karens, Kachins, Chins, Nagas and others, along with the foreign population of over 1,000,000  Indians, less than 200,000 Chinese, 19,000Anglo- Burmans and upwards of 11,000 Europeans.”

The country is divided into two regions i.e.

  • Upper Burma
  • Lower Burma

It is believed that the early inhabitants of the country migrated from Tibet.

RELIGION : Some 80% of the people were Buddhists, including all the Burmans; the Indian population was Hindu while 4% population was Muslim and slightly more than 2% were Christians.

  • Background :

The geographic divisions which constituted nineteenth-century Burma prior to British annexation were gained through incursion into neighboring territories during the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries. The Burmese defeated Araken, Pegu and Tenasserim during the eighteenth-century, while Assam and Manipur were conquered during the early nineteenth century. Thus, Burma was a dominate imperial among Southeast Asian countries.

Burma failed to conquer two major nearby territories, i.e. Siam (Thailand) and the Shan States, of which there were Forty . Thailand remained a sovereign nation while the Shan assumed a tributary role to Burma. Burmese controlled Shan foreign and inter-state relations through the appointment of Burmese political officers; domestic affairs were left much to the individual Shan states.

During the nineteenth-century, Burmese infringement on British colonial territories and perceived diplomatic affronts led to a series of three Anglo-Burmese Wars, each of which the British won and after which they successively annexed the Burmese territory.


The wars were fought in1824-1826, 1853 and 1885respectively. It was British annexation of Burmese territory after the first two wars which ultimately led to Burma’s division into Upper and British, or Lower Burma. Upper Burma consisted of territory belonging to Burma proper while Lower Burma comprised territories previously conquered by the Burmese. British victory after the hostilities in 1985 led to the final annexation of Upper Burma. After 186 the whole of Burma was administered as a British colony through the Governor-Generalship of India; it became a province of India.