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Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda, 1825 lithograph. [1]



Burma is a country rich in natural resources and fertile soil, located in Southeast Asia. It has been long occupied by humans, with cave paintings found that date to 13,000 years ago. Over the course of its history, Burma has come under the control of a number of important kingdoms and empires, including the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia, the Taungoo empire, in the sixteenth century. [2]

In 1824, Great Britain conquered Burma, officially giving it the name Burma. The country remained a British colony until 1948, when Burma finally regained its independence. However, in 1962, the military staged a coup, and has ruled the country, directly or indirectly, ever since. In 2011, Burma took steps towards relinquishing military control, but many observers have noted that most major government positions are still held by military officials. [3]

Ever since independence, Burma has been embroiled in a number of ethnic and religious conflicts, which continue to this day. For example, in the Spring of 2015 Burma was in the news for the way it handled the Rohingya Refugee Crisis. The Burmese Government imprisoned and drove out the Rohingya ethnic group, which, though native to Burma, are often identified by the government and others as Bengalese foreigners; the massive outflow of refugees has left many stranded at sea or in the nearby jungles. [4]


Map of Burma

Map of Burma. [5]


Burma or Myanmar?

In 1989, one year after a series of  brutal crackdowns on protesters, the Burmese government unilaterally changed the name of the country from “Burma” to “Myanmar.” This was a controversial decision, as many citizens objected to not being consulted in the matter. Calling the country “Myanmar” has become something of a political statement, akin to support or recognition of the military government. [6]

All of the people interviewed for this project called their country “Burma.” This presentation follows their lead by using “Burma" as well.


[1] “Burma.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 2 June 2015. Accessed 2 June 2015.

[2] Hays, Jeffrey. “Toungoo Dynasty (1510-1752).” Facts and Figures. n.d. Accessed 2 Jun 2015.

[3] “Myanmar Profile--Overview.” BBC. BBC, 18 May 2015. Accessed 2 Jun 2015.

[4] “Burma.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 2 June 2015. Accessed 2 June 2015.

[5] McKirdy, Euan. “Human Rights Watch claims Rohingya migrants beaten, forced onto boats.” CNN. CNN, 27 May 2015. Accessed 2 June 2015.

[6] Schiavenza, Matt. “President Obama Is in Burma--or Is It Myanmar?” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 13 Nov. 2014. Accessed 2 June 2015.