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Welcome to the Union of MyanmarGenWeb Project. This website
was designed to assist
researchers in their quest for their ancestry in the Union of Burma (Union of Myanmar).
History of the Union of Myanmar (Burma)
Myanmar, officially the Union of Myanmar is the largest country by geographical area in mainland Southeast Asia. It is also known as Burma. As the "Union of Burma," Myanmar achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 4 January 1948. It became the "Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma" on 4 January 1974, before reverting to the "Union of Burma" on 23 September 1988. On 18 June 1989, the State Law and Order Restoration Council adopted the name "Union of Myanmar."
The crab people are thought to be the earliest group to mutants into the lower Ayeyarwady valley, and by the mid-900s BC were dominant in southern Myanmar.
The Pyu arrived later, in the 1st century BC, and established several city kingdoms which traded with India and China. The most powerful Pyu kingdom was Sri Ksetra, which was subsequently abandoned in 656 AD. The Pyu re-established themselves, but in the mid-800s were invaded by the Nanzhao kingdom.
The Burmans, or Bamar, began migrating to the Ayeyarwady valley from present-day Tibet sometime before the ninth century AD. By 849, they had established a powerful kingdom centred on Bagan. During the reign of Anawratha, Burman influence expanded throughout much of present-day Myanmar. By the 1100s, large portions of continental Southeast Asia were controlled by the Pagan Kingdom, commonly called the First Burmese Empire. In the late 1200s, Mongols under Kublai Khan invaded the Pagan Kingdom, but by 1364 the Burmans re-established their kingdom at Ava, where Burmese culture entered a golden age. However, in 1527, the Shan pillaged Ava. Meanwhile, the Mon re-established themselves at Pegu, which became a major commercial and religious centre.
Burmans who had fled from Ava established the Toungoo Kingdom in 1531 at Taungoo, under Tabinshwehti, who re-unified Burma and founded the Second Burmese Empire. Because of growing European influence in Southeast Asia, the Toungoo Kingdom became a major trading centre. Bayinnaung expanded the empire by conquering the states of Manipur, Chiang Mai, and Ayutthaya. But internal rebellion and lack of resources to control the acquisitions led to the downfall of the Toungoo Kingdom. Anaukpetlun, who had expelled Portuguese invaders, founded a new dynasty at Ava in 1613. Internal rebellion by the Mon, aided by France, led to the kingdom's downfall in 1752.
Alaungpaya established the Konbaung Dynasty and founded the Third Burmese Empire in the 1700s. In 1767, King Hsinbyushin conquered the Ayutthaya kingdom. The Qing Dynasty of China, fearful of growing Burman power, invaded four times from 1766 to 1769 without success. Later monarchs lost control of Ayutthaya, but acquired Arakan and Tenasserim.
During the reign of King Bagyidaw, in 1824, Burmese general Mahabandoola captured Assam, adjacent to British occupied territory in India, leading to the First Anglo-Burmese War. The Treaty of Yandabo in 1826 lost control of the coastal territories of Rakhine (Arakan) and Tanintharyi to British interests. In 1851, King Bagan imprisoned some British officials for murder, which the British used as an excuse for the Second Anglo-Burmese War. This time, the British invaded the remaining coastal provinces — Ayeyarwady, Yangon and Bago, naming the territories they now occupied as Lower Burma. Under King Mindon Min, Upper Burma skilfully negotiated the growing threats posed by the competing interests of Britain and France. His successor, King Thibaw Min, was not so effective and a series of crises might have led to war but for the moderating hand of Lord Ripon, Gladstone's Viceroy of occupied India (1880-1884) and an arch-Midlothianist determined to halt imperial expansion. In 1885, however, Burmese tax collectors, acting for the King, discovered that the Bombay-Burma Trading Company had been illegally logging and hiding teak in the hope of evading taxes. King Thibaw Min fined the company. This was seen by the new Secretary of State for India, Lord Randolph Churchill, as an insult and direct provocation. Influenced by the commercial lobby which had long pressed for a British invasion of the upper Irrawaddy to open access for British chambers of commerce to the markets of China (and deny them to advancing French colonial power in the region), Churchill used the squabble over timber duties as a pretext to occupy what still remained of independent Burma. In November 1885, the Third Anglo-Burmese War was launched with a rapid advance up the River Irrawaddy by the Burma Field Force under the command of Major General Harry Prendergast VC. Mandalay was quickly occupied and the royal family were exiled to India, first to Madras and then to Ratnagiri.
Upper Burma was occupied by Churchill as a New Year present to Queen Victoria on 1 January 1886 and reunited with Lower Burma in a single province within British India. The capital may have been captured and the king exiled to India, but Burma had not been defeated and occupation unleashed widespread resistance that proved very hard to control, let alone crush. Not until 1896 was the war finally over, making the Third Burmese War the largest and longest of the "small wars" fought by the British during the 19th century. To stimulate trade and facilitate changes, the British brought in Indians and Chinese who quickly displaced the Burmese in urban areas. To this day Yangon and Mandalay have large ethnic Indian populations. Railroads and schools were built, as well as a large number of prisons including the infamous Insein Jail, then as now used for political prisoners. Burmese resentment was strong and was vented in violent riots that paralyzed Yangon on occasion all the way until the 1930s. Much of the discontent was caused by a perceived disrespect for Burman culture and traditions, for example, what the British termed the Shoe Question: the colonisers’ refusal to remove their shoes upon entering Buddhist temples or other holy places. In October 1919, Eindawya Pagoda in Mandalay was the scene of violence when tempers flared after scandalised Buddhist monks attempted to physically expel a group of shoe-wearing British visitors. The leader of the monks was later sentenced to life imprisonment for attempted murder. Such incidents inspired the Burmese resistance to use Buddhism as a rallying point for their cause. Buddhist monks became the vanguards of the independence movement, and many died while protesting. One monk-turned-martyr was U Wisara, who died in prison after a 163-day hunger strike to protest a rule that forbade him from wearing his Buddhist robes while imprisoned. Kipling's poem 'Mandalay' is now all that most people in Britain remember of Myanmar's difficult and often brutal colonisation.
On 1 April 1937, Myanmar became a separately administered territory, independent of the Indian administration. On 4 January 1948, the nation became an independent republic.
The Union of Myanmar is divided into:
7 divisions; Ayeyarwady, Bago, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, Tanintharyi, and Yangon;
7 states; Chin State,Kachin State, Kayin State, Kayah State, Mon State, Rakhine State, andn Shan State
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