VL.png The World-Wide Web Virtual Library
[WWW VL database || WWW VL search]
donations.gif asia-wwwvl.gif

Online Burma/Myanmar Library

Full-Text Search | Database Search | What's New | Alphabetical List of Subjects | Main Library | Reading Room | Burma Press Summary

Home > Main Library > History > Historiography

Order links by: Reverse Date Title

Historiography

Individual Documents

Title: The Ecology of Burman-Mon Warfare and the Premodern Agrarian State (1383-1425)1
Date of publication: December 2008
Description/subject: "...The present study is broken into five sections as follows. First, it looks at conflicts over the middle Irrawaddy (1389-1411) from various perspectives with different sets of historical data, including changes in chronicle lists of settlements; the observations of a British colonial-era gazetteer, the narrative of Kalà’s Great Chronicle and the Rajadirat epic. Previous papers (Fernquest 2006a, 2006b) have discussed in detail the larger context of these conflicts in the Ava-Pegu War (1383-1426). Second, it then describes the historical geography of Lower Burma and the middle Irrawaddy River basin and draws out the implications for military power. Historically, the north-to-south orientation of the Irrawaddy River has broken the east-to-west orientation of settlements in Lower Burma. This fragmented geography together with the limited farming potential and difficult terrain of the Irrawaddy Delta, contributed to an underlying localism in Lower Burma’s geography. Viewed in this context, the middle Irrawaddy River region is a pivotal thoroughfare providing access to the delta region, Lower Burma, and food supply located along the river. Battles over this strategically important stretch of river are a crucial turning point in the Ava- Pegu War with food supply and adjustments in military logistics playing a crucial role in the course of the conflicts. Apparently, because of the difficult nature of Lower Burma’s geography, the Burmans never established a military outpost any further south than Tharrawaddy on the Irrawaddy River, before the delta even begins. Third, ecological patterns conditioned the long-term conduct of warfare. The regular yearly cycle of changing climate and agriculture conditioned the way wars were fought if manpower was to be optimally conserved. The subsistence crisis was used as an extension or weapon of war. Long-term climate patterns may have increased the potential for these subsistence crises. Fourth, from the underlying constraints of environment and ecology in warfare the paper passes to the dynamics of warfare. A cycle of expansionary warfare explains how military success fueled further military success through the accumulation of geopolitical resources such as land, food supply, and manpower. A marchland factor also was operative in which enemies on fewer fronts aided the expansionary warfare of a state. Eventually, imperial overstretch and logistical overload resulted in a reverse process of state contraction in which the resources accumulated during expansionary warfare were quickly lost. Scorched earth tactics in which local food supplies were destroyed were part of the offensive strategy of expansionary warfare, whereas flight to the hinterland was part of the defensive response. Finally, in the conclusion the paper re-examines the agrarian nature of the Burmese state suggesting that general cross-cultural models of premodern agrarian states lead to richer explanations than the regionspecific mandala or “galactic polity” models traditionally employed in Southeast Asian history. Cross-cultural models allow for more realistic multi-causal explanations of historical events. They also allow for the posing and testing of a wide variety of different hypotheses and the possibility that disparate, geographically unrelated cultures, have shared historical experiences and processes. A Bayesian approach that brings in and VOLUME 6 (2008) 7 5 integrates knowledge of other premodern agrarian states in the form of a priori probabilities is suggested as one approach to crafting such a multi-threaded history of what-might-have-happened. Taken together, the six sections of this paper demonstrate how various seemingly fictional elements typically found in Southeast Asian historical chronicles, fictional elements often conceived of as a historical deficit, rather provide rich details that should be conceived instead as a historical surfeit worthy of study in and of itself..."
Author/creator: Jon Fernquest
Language: English
Source/publisher: SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research 6, 2008
Format/size: pdf (6.2MB, 1.4MB))
Date of entry/update: 27 January 2009


Title: ROMANCE AND TRAGEDY IN BURMESE HISTORY: A READING OF G. E. HARVEY’S "THE HISTORY OF BURMA"
Date of publication: 20 March 2005
Description/subject: "In 1919 G. E. Harvey delivered a speech to staff and students of Rangoon College. Entitled “The Writing of Burmese History,” his lecture exhorted local students to look to the ‘glories’ and ‘shames’ of their past, for “in the beauty of old time you will find an ideal for the future.”2 Harvey encouraged the students to appreciate the “beauty” of their past, yet also to take guidance from their modern English education. In concluding his lecture he exhorted the students to write the history of their own people, stating: “It is for the younger generation with its superior mental training to justify its education, to help these men of an older generation and to take up the magnificent task of writing a fitting History of Burma.” Six years later a history in a form consistent with Harvey’s description was published under the title History of Burma: From the Earliest Times to March 1824 The Beginning of the English Conquest.4 The author of this history, however, was not a local student who was inspired by Harvey’s lecture, but rather Harvey himself. The History of Burma sets out to describe the histories, art and literature of the pre-colonial kingdoms in Burma. In this work Harvey combines the narratives of earlier European travellers to Burma with tales from the local chronicles, and evidence from the local inscriptions. Harvey’s text is an academic account of Burmese history, but it is also a highly literary and sometimes contradictory narrative. 5 Harvey, in his introduction to the book, describes it as “a little pioneer work,” as much of the written evidence of pre-colonial Burma remains “untranslated or unprinted.”6 Yet this book, which was originally published in London in 1925, was not just a “little pioneer work,” it became one of the standard Burmese history texts in the late colonial period..."
Author/creator: Alyssa Phillips
Language: English
Source/publisher: SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol.3, No. 1, Spring 2005,
Format/size: pdf (106K)
Alternate URLs: http://web.archive.org/web/20070102014547/web.soas.ac.uk/burma/3_1.htm
Date of entry/update: 03 October 2010


Title: Text and Context: Another Look at "Burmese Days"
Date of publication: 20 March 2005
Description/subject: "Students of colonial Burma inevitably turn to Burmese Days. The frequent pedagogical use of George Orwell’s (1903-1950) novel has meant that the text has become a part of the mythology of imperial experience not only for Burma, but for the British Empire as a whole...this paper will raise the possibility that repositioning Burmese Days within the stream of discourse about Burma shows that while it was an important work of social criticism, it also bore the biases which some scholars prefer to label as `orientalist.’ Having said as much, it remains beyond the boundaries of this discussion to decide whether Orwell’s novel warrants its mythological reputation...With its emphasis on the cunning of U Po Kyin and ultimate unknowable character of the Burmans Orwell’s novel repeats the constructions of stereotypes which scholars have come to associate with `orientalism.’ To be sure, Orwell did not write to create categories of difference or to promote racial hierarchies, but his novel has the effect of supporting some of these patterns of discourse. Burma, both the land and its peoples, remains as `the other’; the main emphasis is on the presentation of the generic evils associated with imperialism.
Author/creator: Stephen L. Keck
Language: English
Source/publisher: SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 2005
Format/size: pdf (63K)
Alternate URLs: http://web.archive.org/web/20070102014547/web.soas.ac.uk/burma/3_1.htm
Date of entry/update: 03 October 2010


Title: THE FLIGHT OF LAO WAR CAPTIVES FROM BURMA BACK TO LAOS IN 1596: A COMPARISON OF HISTORICAL SOURCES
Date of publication: 20 March 2005
Description/subject: "In 1596, one thousand Lao war captives fled from Pegu, the capital of the kingdom of Burma, back to their native kingdom of Lan Sang. This incident is insignificant when compared to more cataclysmic changes like the founding or fall of dynasties, but it has attracted the attention of Western, Thai, and Burmese historians since the 17th century. The incident is noteworthy and exceptional in several ways. First, the flight was to a remote destination: Laos. Second, the incident involved two traditional enemies: Burmese and ethnic Tai's. "Tai" will be used to emphasize that this is an autonomous history of pre-modern states ranging from Ayutthya in the South, through Lan Sang, Lan Na, Kengtung, and Sipsong Panna in the North, to the Shan states of Burma in the far north. Third, the entries covering the incident in the Ayutthya, Chiang Mai, and Lan Sang chronicles are short, ambiguous, and beg to be explained. All of this gives the incident great dramatic potential and two historians of note have made use of these exceptional characteristics to further their literary and ideological goals: de Marini, a Jesuit priest, in a book published in 1663, and Prince Damrong, a Thai historian, in a book published in 1917. Sections 2 and 5 will analyze the works of these historians..."
Author/creator: Jon Fernquest
Language: English
Source/publisher: SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 2005
Format/size: pdf (115K)
Alternate URLs: http://web.archive.org/web/20070102014547/web.soas.ac.uk/burma/3_1.htm
Date of entry/update: 03 October 2010