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Reinterpreting Burmese History

  • Victor B. Lieberman (a1)

Problems of periodization have received but limited attention in Burmese historiography. Precolonial, that is to say, pre-nineteenth-century history, is said to be of a piece, without significant institutional or social transformations. Dynasties and rulers changed, of course, sometimes with stunning rapidity; but it is always assumed that these oscillations occurred within a static framework. Lamenting the failure of the early Kon-baung kings to move their capital to the coast, G. E. Harvey, whose history remains the standard work on the precolonial era, observes, “Their ideas remained in the nineteenth century what they had been in the ninth. To build pagodas, to collect daughters from tributary chiefs, to sally forth on slave raids, to make wars for white elephants—these conceptions had had their day, and a monarchy which failed to get beyond them was doomed.” In the same vein, it has recently been argued that no “significant transformations” occurred between the origins and collapse of monarchical Burma. The entire precolonial royal era “should be viewed as one entity,” for from the mid-ninth to the late nineteenth century “the major features of [Burma's] political, economic, social, administrative, and religious systems were also virtually identical.”

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An earlier version of this article was presented to the Centre of South East Asian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The author wishes to thank Robert Taylor, Ruth McVey, Rhoads Murphey, Dorothy Guyot, F. K. Lehman, John Whitmore, Thomas Trautmann, and Raymond Grew for their comments.

1 Harvey G. E., History of Burma from the Earliest Times to 10 March 1824 (rpt., London, 1967), 249.

2 Thwin Michael Aung, “Jambudipa: Classical Burma's Camelot,” Contributions to Asian Studies, 16 (1981), 3940.

3 Thwin Michael Aung, “The Role of Sasana Reform in Burmese History: Economic Dimensions of a Religious Purfication,” Journal of Asian Studies, 38:4 (1979), 673.

4 Furnivall J. S., Colonial Policy and Practice (rpt., New York, 1956), 212; see also 538.

5 For historical works, in addition to the references in notes 1–4, see Hall D. G. E., Early English Intercourse with Burma, 1587–1743 (rpt., London, 1968), 1112; idem, Burma (London, 1950), 6566; idem, A History of South-East Asia, 2d ed. (London, 1966), 356–59; Sein Daw Mya, The Administration of Burma (rpt., Kuala Lumpur, 1973), esp. ch. 2; Thwin Michael Aung, “Divinity, Spirit, and Human: Conceptions of Classical Burmese Kingship,” in Centers, Symbols, and Hierarchies: Essays on the Classical States of Southeast Asia, Gesick Lorraine, ed. (New Haven, 1983), 4647; idem, Pagan: The Origins of Modern Burma (Honolulu, 1985), 11, 2829, 198207. Cf. Gyi Maung Maung, Burmese Political Values: The Sociopolitical Roots of Authoritarianism (New York, 1983), which claims that for centuries prior to 1885, “while the West was making considerable strides in every aspect of human life,” Burma “remained stagnant” (p. 32).

6 See, for example, Hall , Burma, 66; Furnivall , Colonial Policy, 212, 538.

7 The historiography of the modern period has relied heavily on British government documents, which naturally structure topics of inquiry, social categories, and perceptions of change in a fashion very different from precolonial ameín-daws, ya-zawins, and sit-tàns. Conceivably the much greater emphasis on continuity in modern Thai history reflects not only objective conditions, but also the fact that in contrast to Burma, indigenous language materials for the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries remain an important primary source.

8 See Schrieke B. J. O., Indonesian Sociological Studies: Selected Writings, 2 vols. (The Hague, 1955, 1957), esp. II, 97ff. (“The Java of around 1700 A.D. was in reality the same as the Java of around 700 A.D.” (p. 100)); and van Leur J. C., Indonesian Trade and Society: Essays in Asian Social and Economic History (The Hague, 1955), wherein he describes external religious influences as “a thin, easily flaking glaze on the massive body of indigenous civilization” (p. 169). While warmly welcoming the corrective to Eurocentrism, Benda Harry J., “The Structure of Southeast Asian History,” Journal of Southeast Asian History, 3:1 (1962), 117–19, also warns, “It is the historian's task to chart both continuity and change, not to deny change through sheer fascination with the longevity of the Southeast Asian infrastructure.”

9 In much the same fashion, early Western scholars of China, fascinated with the persistence of Confucianism, the cyclic character of dynastic history, and China's failure to develop capitalist institutions, saw that civilization as static, whereas it is development and diversity that now compel the attention of premodern Chinese historians. On Western stereotypes of Asian “stasis,” see Tipps Dean C., “Modernization Theory and the Comparative Study of Societies: A Critical Perspective,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 15:2 (1973), 199226; Perlin Frank, “Proto-Industrialization and Pre-Colonial South Asia,” Past and Present, no. 98 (1983), 3032; Anderson Perry, Lineages of the Absolutist State (London, 1979), 462549.

10 Luce Gordon H., Old Burma—Early Pagan, 3 vols. (Locust Valley, N.Y., 1969), I, 16, 19, 61, 97.

11 On the first millennium, see Stargardt Janice, “Burma's Economic and Diplomatic Relations with India and China from Early Medieval Sources,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 14:1 (1971), 3862. On the Ava period (1365 to ca. 1555), see Deyell John, “The China Connection: Problems of Silver Supply in Medieval Bengal,” in Precious Metals in the Later Medieval and Early Modern Worlds, Richards J. F., ed. (Durham, N.C., 1983), 207–27. On the Restored Toungoo (1597–1752) and Kòn-baung (1752–1885) periods, see Lieberman Victor B., “The Transfer of the Burmese Capital from Pegu to Ava,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1980 (no. 1), 79; Crawfurd John, Journal of an Embassy from the Governor General of India to the Court of Ava, 2 vols. (London, 1834), II, 183, 191–95.

12 Pollak Oliver B., Empires in Collision: Anglo-Burmese Relations in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Westport, Conn., 1979), 117. Cf. Tambiah S. J., World Conqueror and World Renouncer (Cambridge, 1976), 128.

13 Cf. the discussion of trade at Wolters O. W., History, Culture, and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives (Singapore, 1982), 3638; Tambiah , World Conqueror and World Renouncer, 128–31; Hall Kenneth R., Maritime Trade and State Development in Early Southeast Asia (Honolulu, 1985), chs. 1–4, 7–9.

14 See Luce G. H., “Old Kyaukse and the Coming of the Burmans,” Journal of the Burmese Research Society (hereafter JBRS), 42:1 (1959), 75109. Burman refers specifically to the dominant ethnolinguistic group within the Irrawaddy basin, while Burmese refers more generally to Burmans and all other groups in the basin and surrounding uplands.

15 On intensifying commercial competition, including the Cola raid of 1025 and Khmer activities, see Hall Kenneth R. and Whitmore John K., “Southeast Asian Trade and the Isthmian Struggle, 1000–1200 A.D.,” in Explorations in Early Southeast Asian History: The Origins of Southeast Asian Statecraft, Hall Kenneth R. and Whitmore John K., eds. (Ann Arbor, 1976), 305–10; Hall, Maritime Trade, ch. 7; Luce , Old Burma, I, 2123; Wolters O. W., Early Indonesian Commerce: A Study of the Origins of Srivijaya (Ithaca, N. Y., 1967), 250–52; Coedes G., The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, Vella Walter, ed. (Honolulu, 1968), 130–33, 141–48.

16 The need for manpower is mentioned by Thwin Michael Aung, “The Nature of State and Society in Pagan: An Institutional History of 12th and 13th Century Burma” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1976), 1920, 320. Luce , Old Burma, I, 2127, 61; Tun Than, “History of Burma, A.D. 1000–1300,” Bulletin of the Burma Historical Commission, 1:1 (1960), 44; and idem, A History of Burma Down to the End of the Thirteenth Century,” New Burma Weekly, 27 09 1958, p. 187ff., tend to discount the traditional religious explanation for Anaw-rahta's conquests, viz., that he sought copies of the Tipitaka at Thaton, in part because this ritualized motive appears for the first time only in a late-fifteenth-century religious source, but more particularly because research in art history shows that the sole texts Anaw-rahta was likely to get from Thaton were Jataka Commentaries. On the commercial motivation for Pagan's conquest of the coast, and on her subsequent commercial/diplomatic activities, see the sources cited above, plus Luce G. H., “The Career of Htilaing Min (Kyanzittha),” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1966 (nos. 1–2), 5960; Achei-pyá myan-má naing-ngan-yeí-thamaìng (Rangoon, 1970), 236–37; Thwin Michael Aung, “The Problem of Ceylonese-Burmese Relations in the 12th Century and the Question of an Interregnum in Pagan: 1165–1174 A.D.,” Journal of the Siam Society, 64:1 (1976), 5374; Hall and Whitmore , “Southeast Asian Trade,” 308–20; and Stargardt , “Burma's Economic and Diplomatic Relations,” 5262. Stargardt has speculated that uncertain relations with Nanchao and Muslim raids in northeast India disrupted Upper Burma's overland commerce with India and China in the eleventh century, thus reinforcing Pagan's search for commercial outlets in the south. See too Hall , Maritime Trade, 194209.

17 See Achei-pyá myan-má, 121–220; Aung U Myint, “The Capital of Suvannabhumi Unearthed?Shiroku, Kagoshima University, 19 (1977), 4153; Tun Than, “History of Burma Down to the End of the Thirteenth Century,” New Burma Weekly, 23 08 1958, p. 1518.

18 Luce , Old Burma, I, 9, 16, 19, 26, 40, 6162, 97, 124–28, 283, has argued that overland contacts with Arakan and East Bengal originally had favored Mahayanist and Tantric forms of Buddhism, but that under Anaw-rahta, and more so Kyanzittha and his successors, Singhalese Theravada Buddhism, based on the Mahavihara canon, became dominant. Eventually the ports of Lower Burma promoted the spread of Singhalese Theravada Buddhism throughout all of western and central mainland Southeast Asia. See Hall and Whitmore , “Southeast Asian Trade,” 326; Mangrai Sao Saimong, The Padaeng Chronicle and the Jengtung State Chronicle Translated (Ann Arbor, 1981), xiv, 102ff., 107ff.

19 On Pagan ideology, see Aung Thwin, Pagan, ch. 3; idem, “Jambudipa,” 38–61; Spiro Melford E., Burmese Supernaturalism: A Study in the Explanation and Reduction of Suffering (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1967), 131–38; Htin Aung Maung, Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism (London, 1962), 7378, 83109.

20 Thwin Aung, “Nature of State and Society,” 4062; idem, “Role of Sasana Reform,” 672; idem.Pagan, chs. 8, 9. He has sought to demonstrate that the period of most prolific temple construction coincided with the apogee of Pagan's military and agricultural expansion, and that the first phenomenon was directly responsible for the latter developments. Cf. Kasetsiri Charnvit, The Rise of Ayudhya (Kuala Lumpur, 1976), 4244, 101–2, arguing that Buddhist temples also offered an important focus for popular organization in early Siam.

21 Pioneering work on the political implications of religious donations appeared in Tun Than, “History of Burma: A.D. 1300–1400,” JBRS, 42:2 (1959), 119–33; idem, Hkit-haùng myan-ma ya-zawin (Rangoon, 1964), 179–83; idem, Maha-katha-pá gaìng,” JBRS, 42:2 (1959), 8198. However, the theory that religious wealth was the primary institutional cause of Pagan's decline originated with Aung Thwin, “Nature of State and Society”; idem, “Kingship, the Sangha, and Society in Pagan,” in Explorations, Hall and Whitmore , eds. 205–56; idem. Pagan, ch. 9.

22 Tun Than, “Maha-katha-pá gaìng," 8198; idem, “History of Burma: A.D. 1300–400," 119–33; F. K. Lehman, personal communication, July, 1984.

23 I am inclined to see repeated Shan incursions from the highlands as an early symptom of Upper Burma's debility, although eventually they also became a major obstacle to reintegration. On the political and religious history of the post-Pagan era, see Thaw Tin Hla, “History of Burma: A.D. 1400–1500,” JBRS, 42:2 (1959), 135–51; Tun Than, –History of Burma: A.D. 1300–1400,” 119–33; Harvey, History, ch. 3.

24 Wolters , Early Indonesian Commerce, 248–53; idem, The Fall of Srivijaya in Malay History (London, 1970), 4248; Hall and Whitmore , “Southeast Asian Trade,” 320–26; Whitmore John K., “The Opening of Southeast Asia, Trading Patterns through the Centuries,” in Economic Exchange and Social Interaction in Southeast Asia, Hutterer Karl, ed. (Ann Arbor, 1977), 143–46; William Skinner G., “Presidential Address: The Structure of Chinese History,” Journal of Asian Studies, 44:2 (1985), 275–79. See also notes 26 and 29.

25 See citations to Wolters in note 24.

26 Wyatt David K., Thailand: A Short History (New Haven, 1984), 5152, 5558, 6370; Charnvit, Rise of Ayudhya, chs. 2, 4. Cf. Hall, Maritime Trade, ch. 7.

27 On coastal strength prior to ca. 1530, see Ù Pyin-nya , ed., Martaban ya-zawin baùng-gyokhnin Martaban sit-tàn-sa-haùng kyan (Thaton, 1927), llff.; Mon ya-zawin (Rangoon, 1922), 60ff.; Ù Kalà , Maha-ya-zawin-gyì, Pwa Saya, ed., 2 vols. (Rangoon, 1926, 1932), I, 377454, II, 1–182 passim; Harvey , History, 6162, 75122; and contemporary references to Burma in Major R. H., ed., India in the Fifteenth Century (London, 1857). The question naturally arises: Why in the eleventh century did an increase in maritime trade encourage northern conquest, whereas in the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries an ostensibly similar phenomenon boosted coastal independence? Two hypotheses present themselves: (1) in the eleventh century, as noted, agricultural revenues and royal population in the north were increasing, whereas by the thirteenth century the problem of untaxed monastic estates had become severe, and (2) the volume of trade in the eleventh century still may have been too small, and the population dependent on trade too limited, to constitute a decisive advantage for coastal rulers.

28 The following section on First Toungoo history derives from Lieberman Victor B., “Europeans, Trade, and the Unification of Burma, c. 1540–1620,” Oriens Extremus, 27:2 (1980), 203–26; idem, Burmese Administrative Cycles: Anarchy and Conquest, c. 1580–1760 (Princeton, 1984), ch. 1, sec. 1. See primary sources identified therein.

29 On international trade with Southeast Asia and the declining impact of Ming bans to 1567, see Elvin Mark, The Pattern of the Chinese Past (Stanford, 1973), 221–23; Meilink- Roelofsz M. A. P., Asian Trade and European Influence in the Indonesian Archipelago (The Hague, 1962), 7480; Skinner , “Presidential Address,” 276–79; Lieberman , Burmese Administrative Cycles, 2526.

30 On the Restored Toungoo period, see Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, chs. 1- 4; idem, Provincial Reforms in Taung-ngu Burma,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 43:3 (1980), 548–69.

31 Koenig William J., “The Early Kòn-baung Polity, 1752–1819: A Study of Politics, Administration and Social Organization in Burma” (Ph.D. diss., University of London, 1978), 240–41. Both Rangoon and Kyaukse revenues were in cash and kind, with a standard cash conversion value for in-kind items.

32 On monetization of the economy during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and the development of trade, both internal and export-oriented, see Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, esp. 117–26, 156–61, relying on Burmese, English, and French sources. On the early Kòn-baung economy, useful descriptive material, generally synchronic, appears in Koenig, “Early Kòn-baung Polity,” ch. 1 et passim; Crawfurd , Journal of an Embassy, II, ch. 6; Symes Michael, An Account of an Embassy to the Kingdom of Ava. … (London, 1800), chs. 6–11; Trager Frank N. and Koenig William J., Burmese Sit-tàns 1764–1826: Records of Rural Life and Administration (Tucson, 1979), chs. 4–5 et passim; FatherSangermano , A Description of the Burmese Empire (rpt., New York, 1969), chs. 12, 21, 23. No doubt systematic economic studies await the investigation of mortgages, paddy sales, tenancy agreements, and inheritance cases such as those preserved on microfilm in the Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies, The Toyo Bunko, Tokyo.

33 On the post-1550 decline of landed donations and on royal control of religious funds, see Lieberman Victor B., “The Political Significance of Religious Wealth in Burmese History: Some Further Thoughts,” Journal of Asian Studies, 39:4(1980), 757–62, summarizing the evidence of Burmese lithic inscriptions and palmleaf inquests; Hsaya-daw Patamá Maùng-Htaung, Ameìdaw-hpyei (Mandalay, 1961), 122–34, recording late-eighteenth-century restrictions; Koenig , “Early Kon-baung Polity,” 260–61, which cites evidence from eighteenth-century records and nineteenth-century colonial reports; and U Toe Hla, “Burmese Sakkaraj Culture: A Socio-Economic Pattern of the Later Kun” bhon [sic] Period (1819–1885),” manuscript, ch. 2, p. 3, 12, discussing legal restrictions and land statistics to conclude that glebe lands in a typical nineteenth-century Upper Burma locale were less than 8 percent of the total and that in general, ”we can confidently say that the religious lands in the Kun” bhon period were not as extensive as in the classical period; they could not weaken the country's economy and politics.” One may speculate that the contracting ratio of religious lands to total cultivated lands after 1550 reflected the combined impact of agricultural expansion and of illegal (though at times unintentional) acquisition of ancient religious property by the state and private laymen.

34 On royal interference with the collection of nominally religious revenues, the changing status of religious slaves, and sixteenth-century Shan destruction of religious property, see Lieberman , “Political Significance of Religious Wealth,” 757–62; and Koenig , “Early Konbaung Polity,” 261–62.

35 Koenig, “Early Kon-baung Polity,” chs. 1, 2, 7 el passim.

36 The Dhammarajika Inscription of 1196–98 is generally accepted as expressing Pagan's widest claims. To the northwest, districts in East Bengal may conceivably have recognized Pagan's suzerainty. See Luce G. H., “Aspects of Pagan History—Later Period,” in In Memoridm Phya Anuman Rajadhon, Bunnag Tej and Smithies Michael, eds. (Bangkok, 1970), 138–39. See also Tun Than, “History of Burma Down to the End of Thirteenth Century,” New Burma Weekly, 27 09 1958, p. 189, wherein he denies that Arakan fell under Anaw-rahta's control.

37 See Ù Kalà , Maha-ya-zawin-gyì, II, 307, 312; Scott J. G. and Hardiman J. P., comps., Gazeteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States (Rangoon, 1900), pt. 1, vol. I, 202–7, 280–88, 320, 326; Mangrai Sao Saimong, The Shan States and the British Annexation (Ithaca, N.Y., 1965), 33, 5558, 103–4; idem, Padaeng Chronicle, 4–6, 34–37, 204–5; Myint Ni Ni, Burma's Struggle against British Imperialism (Rangoon, 1983), 106–7; Lieberman , Burmese Administrative Cycles, 133–34.

38 See Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, chs. 2, 4. The successful Shwebo-based coups of 1837 and 1852–53 were but limited modifications of the capital-oriented pattern.

39 See note 37, plus The Royal Orders of Burma, A.D. 1598–1885: Part IV, A.D. 1782–1787, Tun Than, ed. (Kyoto, 1986), 316, 352–53.

40 See Adas Michael, The Burma Delta: Economic Development and Social Change on an Asian Rice Frontier, 1852–1941 (Madison, Wise., y), 1619, 57, 232; Lieberman Victor B., “Ethnic Politics in Eighteenth-Century Burma,” Modern Asian Studies, 12:3 (1978), 455–82; idem, Burmese Administrative Cycles, 120–21; Moerman Michael, “Ethnic Identification in a Complex Civilization: Who Are the Lue?American Anthropologist, 67:5 (1965), 1215–30; Koenig , “Early Kòn-baung Polity,” 8486.

41 Pollak , Empires in Collision, ch. 6; Bennett Paul J., Conference under the Tamarind Tree (New Haven, 1971), 5799.

42 Ca. 1320: Sagaing, Pinya, Martaban, Lan Na, Lopburi, Suphanburi, Phayao, Sukhothai, Lan Chang, Vietnam, Champa, and Angkor. Ca. 1520: Ava, Toungoo, Pegu, Lan Na, Ayudhya, Lan Chang, Vietnam, and Cambodia; Champa was a mere remnant. By 1810, Cambodia, Vientiane, and Luang Prabang had become subordinate to Siam and/or Vietnam. Because Indianized states were “galactic polities, ” “independence” may be debated in some cases, but the general trend is clear enough. See Harvey, History; Wyatt, Thailand, chs. 3–6; Hodgkin Thomas, Vietnam: The Revolutionary Path (London, 1981), chs. 3–6; Chandler David, A History of Cambodia (Boulder, Col.), 1983, chs. 5–6.

43 On Vietnamese and Siamese development, see note 42, plus Reid Anthony, “Low Population Growth and Its Causes in Pre-Colonial Southeast Asia,” paper read at the Ninth Conference of the International Association of Historians of Asia, ManilaNovember 1983; Whitmore John K., “Vietnam and the Monetary Flows of Eastern Asia, Thirteenth to Eighteenth Centuries,” in Precious Metals, Richards , ed., 363–93; idem, “Social Organization and Confucian Thought in Vietnam,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 15:2 (1984), 296–306; Nha Nguyen Than, Tableau économique du Vietnam aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris, 1970), esp. 39ff., 134ff., 229–33; K. W. Taylor, “The Literati Revival in Seventeenth Century Vietnam,” manuscript; Cotter Michael G., “Towards a Social History of the Vietnamese Southward Movement,” Journal of Southeast Asian History, 9:1 (1968), 1224; Woodside Alexander, Vietnam and the Chinese Model (Cambridge, Mass., 1971); Charnvit , Rise of Ayudhya; Sarasin Viraphol, Tribute and Profit: Sino-Siamese Trade, 1652–1853 (Cambridge, Mass., 1977); Rabibhadana Akin, The Organization of Thai Society in the Early Bangkok Period, 1782–1873 (Ithaca, N.Y., 1970). China also yields broad analogies to Burmese experience, albeit over a far longer period and with a more easily identified agricultural contribution. Growing agricultural output, monetization, and interregional trade helped to destroy the localized aristocratic order of Han and early T’ang times in favor of a more egalitarian, urbanized society capable of supporting an unprecedentedly large, mobile class of bureaucratic aspirants. The impact of these developments on political institutions was most evident in the elevation of civil service examinations to the principal means of personnel recruitment, but appeared also in the more rigid protocol surrounding the sovereign, in the increasingly effective centralization of capital and provincial structures, and in the fragmentation and declining status of military commands. At the same time, not unlike Burma, periods of fragmentation attending the fall of the Han, T’ang, and Ming became progressively shorter, institutional and cultural discontinuities became less marked, while the number of regional contenders for the imperial succession also tended to diminish. See Reischauer Edwin O. and Fairbank John K., East Asia: The Great Tradition (Boston, 1960); Hucker C. O., China's Imperial Past (London, 1975).

44 E.g., Donnison F. S. V., Burma, (New York, 1970), 182, 245–46; Steinberg David I., Burma: A Socialist Nation of Southeast Asia (Boulder, Col., 1982), 113–15; Maung MaungGyi, Burmese Political Values, chs. 1, 6, 7; Thwin Michael Aung, “The British ‘Pacification’ of Burma: Order without Meaning,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 16:2 (09 1985), 245–61; Badgley John H., “Burma: The Nexus of Socialism and Two Political Traditions,” Asian Survey, 3:2 (1963), 8995.

45 The Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League was Burma's dominant political party from 1945 to 1960. On recent history, including the role and fate of the Burmese “middle class” (I follow the definition offered by Taylor Robert H., “Party, Class and Power in British Burma,” Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 19:1 (1981), 46), see Taylor's article, at 44–61; Adas, Burma Delta; Walinsky Louis J., Economic Development in Burma, 1951–1960 (New York, 1962); Steinberg David I., Burma's Road toward Development (Boulder, Col., 1981); Silverstein Josef, Burma: Military Rule and the Politics of Stagnation (Ithaca, N.Y., 1977); Trager Frank N., Burma: From Kingdom to Republic (New York, 1966); and Tinker Hugh, The Union of Burma, 4th ed. (London, 1967).

46 On traditional concepts of Buddhist regulation, see Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, 65–78. On military ideology, see Government of Burma, Burma Socialist Program Party, The System of Correlation of Man and His Environment (Rangoon, 1964); Government of Burma, Revolutionary Council, The Burmese Way to Socialism (Rangoon, 1962); and analyses in Silverstein, Burma, 80–87; Wiant Jon, “Tradition in the Service of Revolution: The Political Symbolism of Taw-hlan-ye-khit,” in Military Rule in Burma since 1962, Lehman F. K., ed. (Singapore, 1981),5972; Badgley John and Wiant Jon A., “The Ne Win-BSPP Style of Bama- Lo,” in The Future of Burma in Perspective: A Symposium, Silverstein Josef, ed. (Athens, Ohio, 1974), 4364.

47 Sarkisyanz E., Buddhist Backgrounds of the Burmese Revolution (The Hague, 1965), ch. 23.

48 Ruth McVey, personal communication, 25 June 1983. Such information as is available on the officer corps of the 1940s, when the current military leadership arose, shows that it hailed not from rural districts, where Buddhist traditions presumably were strongest, but from the larger towns; that in terms of occupation, officers’ families were overwhelmingly commercial and administrative; and that the officers themselves had a comparatively high level of Western education. Taylor Robert H., “Burma,” in Civil-Military Relations in Southeast Asia, Crouch Harold and Ahmad Zakaria, eds. (Kuala Lumpur, forthcoming), citing data from Guyot Dorothy, “The Political Impact of the Japanese Occupation of Burma” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1966), 326–27.

49 Smith Donald E., Religion and Politics in Burma (Princeton, 1965), chs. 5, 7. The original AFPFL program supported by Aung San was avowedly secular.

50 Cf. Wiant, “Tradition in Service of Revolution, ” 59–71.

51 In addition to Sarkisyanz, Maung Maung Gyi, Burmese Political Values, has argued for the precolonial bases of contemporary ideology; contenting himself with a simple isomorphism, however, he makes no sustained effort to trace intellectual linkages. I have been concerned with the contribution of traditional thought to the formulation of military ideology, but I hasten to add that this is a somewhat different issue from the contribution of traditional attitudes to peasant perceptions of military legitimacy. Although there is no evidence that military pronouncements appeal explicitly to popular ideas of kamma, without doubt the regime in general, and Ne Win in particular, have benefitted from deeply ingrained notions of deference to established authority, and specifically from the popular assumption that success in this life reflects meritorious behavior in past lives. Cf. Wiant, “Tradition in Service of Revolution, ” 62; and the discussion of peasant political attitudes in the early 1960s in Nash Manning, The Golden Road to Modernity: Village Life in Contemporary Burma (Chicago, 1973), esp. chs. 3, 7.

52 Weber Max, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, Roth Guenther and Wittich Claus, eds. (New York, 1968), III, ch. 12, esp. 1028–31; Lieberman , Burmese Administrative Cycles, ch. 2.

53 On the colonial state, see Guyot James F., “Bureaucratic Transformation in Burma,” in Asian Bureaucratic Systems Emergent from the British Imperial Tradition, Braibanti Ralph, ed. (Durham, N.C., 1966), 354–84; Furnivall , Colonial Policy, esp. chs. 1–6; Woodman Dorothy, The Making of Burma (London, 1962); Donnison F. S. V., Public Administration in Burma (London, 1953); Robert H. Taylor, “British Policy and the Shan States, 1886–1942,” manuscript.

54 Alongside administrative reorganization, the expansion of public education and social services since 1948 has served to strengthen government influence on the local level. On civilian rule 1948–62, see Tinker, Union of Burma, esp. chs. 5, 7; Silverstein, Burma, ch. 3; Guyot, “Bureaucratic Transformation, ” 384–438. On administration and mass mobilization under the army, see Silverstein, Burma, esp. chs. 4, 5; Steinberg, Burma's Road toward Development; essays in Lehman, ed., Military Rule in Burma; and especially Taylor's penetrating and original essay, “Burma.“

55 Silverstein, Burma, 78, 124ff.; Taylor Robert H., “Perceptions of Ethnicity in the Politics of Burma,” Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science, 10:1 (1982), 722; idem, “Burma's National Unity Problem and the 1974 Constitution, ” Contemporary Southeast Asia, 1:3 (1979), 232–48; Silverstein Josef, Burmese Politics: The Dilemma of National Unity (New Brunswick, N.J., 1980). I hasten to add, however, that Indians and Chinese and those of nonindigenous descent lack the rights of native-born Burmese.

56 Taylor, “Burma”; Steinberg, Burma's Road toward Development, 173–74; Jon Wiant, personal communication, 23 June 1986. cf.Girling John L. S., Thailand: Society and Politics (Ithaca, N.Y., 1981), 7281, 122–25; Crouch Harold, “Patrimonialism and Military Rule in Indonesia,” World Politics, 31:4 (1979), 571–87.

57 Furnivall J. S., An Introduction to the Political Economy of Burma, 3d ed. (Rangoon, 1957); Andrus J. Russell, Burmese Economic Life (Stanford, 1947); Adas, Burma Delta.

58 Steinberg, Burma's Road toward Development, 182. At the same time, the government has been content to reduce foreign trade as a percentage of the GNP to a level far lower than in the colonial period.

59 This is not, in perverse re-creation of Eurocentric perspectives, to claim that without external direction Burma was condemned to stagnation. As noted, the relation between agricultural and maritime development awaits investigation, and during some periods the former probably made the more important contribution to centralization. Moreover, the Burmese rarely adopted foreign concepts without extensive modification and redefinition. Until the late nineteenth century, the initiative for alien importations always remained in Burmese hands. In this sense, of course, the prolonged and forcible disruption brought by the colonial era differs from all previous transmissions.

60 On the postwar insurrections and travails of U Nu's government, see references cited in note 45, as well as Taylor, “Burma”; Smith , Religion and Politics, ch. 7.

61 Taylor, “Burma.”

62 Taylor , “Burma”; Donnison, Burma, 164–65; Silverstein , Burma, 2931; and Steinberg , Burma, 7375, agree that the army's fear of non-Burman (especially Shan) secession was a primary motivation for the coup of March 1962, although Steinberg also feels that U Nu's threat to eliminate the importing functions of the military-owned Burma Economic Development Corporation added to the sense of urgency. Taylor has demonstrated that the army expanded its economic, “civic action,” and administrative functions throughout the 1950s, often in direct competition with civilian administration; and in retrospect, the 1958–60 caretaker regime may be seen as an augury of the 1962 coup. Much the same extreme deflation of central power as occurred in Burma after independence also occurred in Indonesia, where the army has also set itself the task of restoring stability and reconcentrating authority. In contrast to Burma, however, where the army's fear of ethnic and middle-class dissidence led it to curtail foreign inputs, in Indonesia the army has combined a strong statism with an openness to capitalist investment and foreign involvement. See Anderson Benedict R. O’G., “Old State, New Society: Indonesia's New Order in Comparative Historical Perspective,” Journal of Asian Studies, 42:3 (1983), 477– 96, wherein he argues that Suharto continues many of the ideals and policies of the Dutch beamtenstaat. See also Taylor Robert H., An Undeveloped State: The Study of Modern Burma's cPolitics,” Monash University Centre of Southeast Asian Studies Working Paper 28 (Melbourne, 1983), 2930, calling attention in somewhat the same fashion as this essay to the consistent demands of the state during the last century of Burmese history.

63 Although this essay has sought to show how external and domestic pressures historically have favored centralization, it is by no means inconceivable that in the future the same logic of creative response to internal or external crisis could produce a trend toward decentralization, if not of the state per se, then of the state-directed economy. Indeed, starting in the early 1970s, manifest problems of socialist planning generated reforms aimed at increased autonomy for state enterprises and a greater role for private and foreign capital. See Steinberg, Burma's Road toward Development, esp. ch. 3.

64 Lieberman , Burmese Administrative Cycles, 211–24, 228; idem, “Ethnic Politics,” 455–79.

65 Myint Ni Ni, Burma's Struggle, 106–7, notes that –the sawbwas did not plan to abolish the monarchy—on the contrary they supported it… All that they wanted was to be left alone…without much interference from the Court or its representatives.”

66 Taylor , An Undeveloped State, 30

67 Cf.Lieberman , “Ethnic Politics,” 480–82; Lehman F. K., “Ethnic Categories in Burma and the Theory of Social Systems,” in Southeast Asian Tribes, Minorities, and Nations, Kunstadter Peter, ed., 2 vols. (Princeton, 1967), I, 103; and Cady John F., A History of Modern Burma (Ithaca, N.Y., 1958), 98–99, 137–41, 293–94, 368–73, 549–51, 589–96, discussing the rise of Karen “nationalism.”

68 See Lieberman , Burmese Administrative Cycles, 134–37; Lehman F. K., “Burma: Kayah Society as a Function of the Shan-Burma-Karen Context,” in Contemporary Change in Traditional Societies, Steward Julian H., ed. (Urbana, 111., 1967), II, 764. The appearance of statelets in Kayah in the early nineteenth century may have vaguely foreshadowed the area's incorporation into Burma-centered “civilization,” but until the end of the monarchy the Kayah chiefs never owed tribute to Burma in the manner of Shan sawbwas.

69 Cf. the discussion of the political implications of bureaucratic mobility in Anderson Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1983), chs. 4, 7.

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
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