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The British Colonisation of Burma

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Many people horrified by the brutality of the Burmese regime say that the ‘international community’ should intervene in the country.

But the history of Burma shows that meddling by imperial powers has always made things worse.

Throughout the 19th century the British steadily moved into Burma from India and by 1885 conquered the country, deposing the king and incorporating the country into India.

The invasion was marked by savagery, with troops burning down villages and suppressing dissent with mass executions.

Once in control the British ripped up Burma’s economy and environment.

In Northern Burma, the British harvested the teak wood forests that were used for ship building, furniture, and selling.

In the South, the British increased crop production in the fertile Irrawaddy Delta create more revenue.

For example, in 1855, the delta produced 162,000 ton of rice. In 1905, the number jumped to 2 million tons. The increased production and increasing prices of rice created great wealth for Britain

Additionally, the British mined the famous rubies of Burma and other minerals.

The economic impact for British ultimately became positive through harvesting teak wood, growing crops, and mining minerals.

Burmese people were becoming poor after they were forced to work on British factories and farms and leave their self-sufficient jobs and farms.

This created an economic crisis for the Burmese people which caused them to be desperate for money.

A negative environmental impact for Burma was the uncontrollable deforestation of the teak forests by the British

The mangrove forests were replaced with rice paddies, while British monopolies looted the country of oil, teak and rubies.

Over the following 20 years of British rule Burmese society disintegrated.

The British maintained control through ‘divide and rule’ tactics, setting Burma’s various national minorities against each other


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