About the same time a revolution broke out which resulted in King Pagan's dethronement. His tyrannical and barbarous conduct had made him obnoxious at home as well as abroad, and indeed many of his actions recall the worst passages of the history of the later Roman emperors. The Mindôn prince, who had become apprehensive for his own safety, made him prisoner in February 1853, and was himself crowned king of Burma towards the end of the year. The new monarch, known as King Mindôn, showed himself sufficiently arrogant in his dealings with the European powers, but was wise enough to keep free from any approach towards hostility. The loss of Pegu was long a matter of bitter regret, and he absolutely refused to acknowledge it by a formal treaty. In the beginning of 1855 he sent a mission of compliment to Lord Dalhousie, the governor-general; and in the summer of the same year Major (afterwards Sir Arthur) Phayre, de facto governor of the new province of Pegu, was appointed envoy to the Burmese court. He was accompanied by Captain (afterwards Sir Henry) Yule as secretary, and Mr Oldham as geologist, and his mission added largely to our knowledge of the state of the country; but in its main object of obtaining a treaty it was unsuccessful.

It was not till 1862 that the king at length yielded, and his relations with Britain were placed on a definite diplomatic basis.

In that year the province of British Burma, the present Lower Burma, was formed, with Sir Arthur Phayre as chief commissioner. In 1867 a treaty was concluded at Mandalay providing for the free intercourse of trade and the establishment of regular diplomatic relations. King Mindôn died in 1878, and was succeeded by his son King Thibaw. Early in 1879 he excited much horror by executing a number of the members of the Burmese royal family, and relations became much strained. The British resident was withdrawn in October 1879. The government of the country rapidly became bad. Control over many of the outlying districts was lost, and the elements of disorder on the British frontier were a standing menace to the peace of the country. The Burmese court, in contravention of the express terms of the treaty of 1869, created monopolies to the detriment of the trade of both England and Burma; and while the Indian government was unrepresented at Mandalay, representatives of Italy and France were welcomed, and two separate embassies were sent to Europe for the purpose of contracting new and, if possible, close alliances with sundry European powers.

Matters were brought to a crisis towards the close of 1885, when the Burmese government imposed a fine of £230,000 on the Bombay-Burma Trading Corporation, and refused to comply with a suggestion of the Indian government that the cause of complaint should be investigated by an impartial arbitrator. An ultimatum was therefore despatched on the 22nd of October 1885. On the 9th of November a reply was received in Rangoon amounting to an unconditional refusal. The king on the 7th of November issued a proclamation calling upon his subjects to drive the British into the sea. On the 14th of November 1885 the British field force crossed the frontier, and advanced to Mandalay without incurring any serious resistance (see Burmese Wars). It reached Ava on the 26th of November, and an envoy from the king signified his submission. On the 28th of November the British occupied Mandalay, and next day King Thibaw was sent down the river to Rangoon, whence he was afterwards transferred to Ratnagiri on the Bombay coast. Upper Burma was formally annexed on the 1st of January 1886, and the work of restoring the country to order and introducing settled government commenced. This was a more serious task than the overthrow of the Burmese government, and occupied four years.

This was in part due to the character of the country, which was characterized as one vast military obstacle, and in part to the disorganization which had been steadily growing during the six years of King Thibaw's reign. By the close of 1889 all the larger bands of marauders were broken up, and since 1890 the country has enjoyed greater freedom from violent crime than the province formerly known as British Burma. By the Upper Burma Village Regulations and the Lower Burma Village Act, the villagers themselves were made responsible for maintaining order in every village, and the system has worked with the greatest success. During the decade 1891-1901 the population increased by 19.8% and cultivation by 53%. With good harvests and good markets the standard of living in Burma has much improved. Large areas of cultivable waste have been brought under cultivation, and the general result has been a contented people. The boundary with Siam was demarcated in 1893, and that with China was completed in 1900.


Official: Col. Horace Spearman, British Burma Gazetteer (2 vols., Rangoon, 1879); Sir J. George Scott, Upper Burma Gazetteer (5 vols., Rangoon, 1900-1901). Non-official: Right Rev. Bishop Bigandet, Life or Legend of Gautama (3rd ed., London, 1881); G.W. Bird, Wanderings in Burma (London, 1897); E.D. Cuming, In the Shadow of the Pagoda (London, 1893), With the Jungle Folk (Condon, 1897); Max and Bertha Ferrars, Burma (London, 1900); H. Fielding, The Soul of a People (Buddhism in Burma) (London, 1898), Thibaw's Queen (London, 1899), A People at School (1906); Capt. C.J. Forbes, F.S., Burma (London, 1878), Comparative Grammar of the Languages of Farther India (London, 1881), Legendary History of Burma and Arakan (Rangoon, 1882); J. Gordon, Burma and its Inhabitants (London, 1876); Mrs E. Hart, Picturesque Burma (London, 1897); Gen. R. Macmahon, Far Cathay and Farther India (London, 1892); Rev. F. Mason, D.D., Burma (Rangoon, 1860); E.H. Parker, Burma (Rangoon, 1892); Sir Arthur Phayre, History of Burma (London, 1883); G.C. Rigby, History of the Operations in Northern Arakan and the Yawdwin Chin Hills (Rangoon, 1897), Sir J. George Scott, Burma, As it is, As it was, and As it will be (London, 1886); Shway Yoe, The Burman, His Life and Notions (2nd ed., London, 1896); D.M. Smeaton, The Karens of Burma (London, 1887); Sir Henry Yule, A Mission to Ava (London, 1858); J. Nisbet, Burma under British Rule and Before (London, 1901); V.D. Scott O'Connor, The Silken East (London, 1904); Talbot Kelly, Burma (London, 1905); an exhaustive account of the administration is contained in Dr Alleyne Ireland's The Province of Burma, Report prepared on behalf of the university of Chicago (Boston, U.S.A., 2 vols., 1907).

(J. G. Sc.)

[1] See also, for geology, W. Theobald, "On the Geology of Pegu," Mem. Geol. Surv. India, vol. x. pt. ii. (1874); F. Noetling, "The Development and Subdivision of the Tertiary System in Burma," Rec. Geol. Sun. India, vol. xxviii. (1895), pp. 59-86, pl. ii.; F. Noetling, "The Occurrence of Petroleum in Burma, and its Technical Exploitation," Mem. Geol. Surv. India, vol. xxvii. pt. ii. (1898).