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The Bamar have the Power of Hierarchy.|
Starting government: Sovereignty
Shwebo; Sagaing; Ava; Amarapura; Mandalay; Yangdon; Mawlamyaing; Bago; Pathein; Meiktila; Mawlamyine; Sittwe; Thaton; Mergui; Taunggyi; Magway; Mogok; Hakha; Pa-an; Loikhaw
For many centuries, Burma, or Myanmar as it is called today, like many other Asian nations oscillated between unity and civil war. The foundations of modern Burma were first laid down by the Pagan empire, centred around the former city of Pagan (near present-day Mandalay) around 1050, but invasion and civil war soon ensued with the destruction of Pagan by Mongol Yuan forces in the 13th century. For almost six centuries, Burma would be divided into several smaller kingdoms, until the rise of the Toungoo towards the end of the 16th century, which would in turn fall and be conquered by the Konbaung in the 18th century. The Konbaung would eventually reunite all Burma and fend of Indian, Chinese and Siamese ambitions. With success, however, came jealousies: Burmese expansion in the 19th century towards India resulted in confrontations between Burma and the British authorities (now in control of most of India) and although the Konbaung attempted to modernise in time to meet the threat, palace coups and political instability eventually guaranteed defeat, and by 1890 the Konbaung royal family was deposed and sent into exile, and Burma was put under British Indian rule.
Burma in the Middle AgesEdit
Linguistically related to the Tibetans, the Bamar people originally lived in eastern Tibet or Yunnan but had migrated into the Irrawaddy Valley (Upper Burma) because of the power vacuum created by attacks by the Nanchao Kingdom of Yunnan (now China’s Yunnan Province) on states in Burma ruled by an earlier people, the Pyu. The Upper Burma Dry Zone is a harsh, semi-desert environment, and the Bamar quickly gained a reputation as aggressive warriors. They gave their capital of Bagan the Pali name of Arimaddanapura, “the city that is a crusher of enemies.” The Empire was highly cosmopolitan, with Bamar, Mon, and Pyu living under both by absorbing non-Bamar cultural influences (especially Mon culture) and by preserving the privileges of an ethnic Bamar ruling class.
Although the Bagan monarchs patronised Mon culture, recognising it as being more refined than their own, and venerated Mon monks as teachers of Theravada doctrine, the Mon continued to rebel against Bagan and by the end of the 13th century had established independent Mon state at Pegu. More disaster was to come, however: the Yuan Mongols demanded tribute and when this was denied, they invaded in 1277, finally sacking Bagan in 1287. In the wake of the sacking, the Burmese nation was torn asunder into several smaller kingdoms and the next 300 years would see more chaos and bloodshed as these kingdoms fought for supremacy.
The Toungoo DynastyEdit
For many centuries after the Mongol destruction of Bagan, Burma was divided between three key players: the Shan states to the north, created not long after the return of the Mongols to China; the kingdom of Ava, landlocked upon the upper Irawaddy; and the Hanthawaddy, based down by the Bay of Bengal. War between Ava and Hanthawaddy resulted in the near-annihilation of Ava. However, a new kingdom soon arose: the kingdom of Toungoo, located near present-day Yangdon. Under its great monarch Tabinshwehti, Toungoo soon took advantage of the political instability of its rivals; Hanthawaddy was conquered in 1539, its capital of Pegu soon made the capital of the growing Burmese kingdom. Next to fall to the Toungoo were Siam (1548) Ava (1555) and the Shan states (1557).
By 1584, the Toungoo dynasty had created the largest overland empire ever in the history of Southeast Asia, but civil discord and the threat of invasion by the Portuguese forced Toungoo to retreat back to Ava, leaving the states on the periphery of the empire to rebel. Although the Toungoo were able to maintain their independence and kept the Portuguese at bay, the empire slowly disintegrated and by 1740, Pegu was lost to a rebellion, the empire was as good as destroyed and facing invasion by the Indian kingdom of Manipur to the west.
The Konbaung dynastyEdit
Meanwhile, a new dynasty emerged in the north: the Konbaung. Originally founded around a village-citadel known as Shwebo to defend against foreign invasion, its king Bodawpaya (r 1782–1817), steadily expanded his realm westward. At the same time the British gained territorial control over Bengal and elsewhere in India. In 1784 Bodawpaya attacked and annexed the kingdom of Arakan on the coast of the Bay of Bengal and brought his frontier to what would become British India. Arakanese rebels operating from within British territory created a tense situation on the Anglo-Burmese border, resulting in frequent border clashes. The Burmese threatened invasion if the British failed to stop rebel incursions from their territory.
Confrontation with the BritishEdit
From the late eighteenth century the kingdom of Assam to the North of British Bengal was in decline. The kingdom covered the Brahmaputra valley from the Himalayas to the entry of the river into the plains of Bengal. Rival groups at the Assamese court turned both to the British and the Burmese for assistance, leading to a British expedition in 1792. In 1817 turmoil at the Assamese court led to another request for assistance and this time Bodawpaya sent an invading army. The Assamese were defeated and a pro-Burmese premier was installed.
Two decades earlier Bodawpaya had invaded Manipur, a kingdom set in a small valley to the west of the Chindwin River, and installed a puppet prince. In 1819 the Manipur Prince asserted his autonomy from the Burmese court by not attending the coronation of Bagyidaw, Bodawpaya’s successor. The Burmese invaded again and stationed a permanent garrison in Manipur. Manipur would now form a base from which further Burmese military expeditions into Assam would be conducted. In 1821, following years of local unrest, Bagyidaw sent general Mahabanula with a 20,000-person-strong army across the mountains to consolidate Burmese rule in Assam. In 1823, with Assamese resistance largely broken, Mahabandula set up his base at Rangpur and began his attacks on Cachar and Jaintia. The British in turn declared Cachar and Jaintia a protectorate. British Bengal was now hemmed in on its northern and eastern borders by the Burmese Empire.
In January 1824 Mahabandula assumed command in Arakan and started on a campaign against Chittagong with the ultimate goal to capture Bengal. In response, on March 5, 1824, the British declared war on Burma from their headquarters at Fort William in Calcutta. The British plan was to draw away Mahabandula’s forces from the Bengal frontier by performing a large-scale sea-borne invasion of Lower Burma. The attack on Rangoon, lead by Sir Archibald Campbell, completely surprised the Burmese and the city was taken on May 10, 1824 without any loss to the invaders. The news of the fall of Rangoon forced Mahabandula to a quick retreat. The British force in Rangoon had meanwhile been unable to proceed upcountry because it did not have adequate river transports. After having been resupplied after the monsoon Campbell continued the operations and in 1825 at the battle of Danubyu Mahabandula was killed and the same year Arakan, Lower Burma, and Tenasserim were conquered.
After a second battle the way to the Burmese capital, Amarapura, lay wide open. Campbell now possessed adequate river transport and rapid progress was made up the Irrawaddy. British peace terms were so staggering that not until the British army arrived at Yandabo, a few days’ march from the Burmese capital, did the Burmese accept the terms. After the peace of Yandabo the Burmese had ceded to the British Arakan, Tenasserim, Assam, and Manipur. An indemnity in rupees, equal to 1 million pound sterling, was paid to guarantee removal of British troops from Lower Burma.