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History, The Konbaung Dynasty and the Anglo-Burmese Wars

Tenasserim, Irrawaddy delta, Anglo-Burmese War, French interests, Arakan

Increasing European commercial and political pressure set the context for the rise and demise of the last Burmese dynasty. During the 1600s and early 1700s competing British, Dutch, and French interests had established commercial ventures at Syriam, near present-day Yangon, and elsewhere on the coast. In 1752 Alaungpaya founded the Konbaung dynasty by restoring Burmese rule first at Ava and later in the delta. He moved against the British at the Negrais trading post and then initiated another attack on the Thai, whose capital at Ayutthaya was later destroyed by his son King Hsinbyushin (reigned 1763-1776). Another son, Bodawpaya, lost control of Siam but captured the Arakan, a rich coastal province bordering on Bengal.

By the early 19th century, political friction over an Arakanese independence movement based in Bengal was compounded by the military successes of the Burmese general Maha Bandula in Assam. The British responded by sea in the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). The ensuing Treaty of Yandabo left the British in control of Arakan to the west and Tenasserim to the east of the Irrawaddy delta. The production of rice and timber flourished in these two areas under the British, while their relative political stability induced massive population growth, a general pattern that was repeated after the remainder of the delta was annexed in the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852. Commercial ambition and political pretext, heightened by Anglo-French regional rivalry, precipitated the final annexation, when Mandalay fell after a brief battle in 1885. These extensions of British rule were progressively less popular with the resident population, and each in turn required a period of pacification. In the longer run, British rule brought widespread administrative and social modernization to a land that, except for the benign efforts of King Mindon, the builder of Mandalay, had been swamped in reclusive policies and wracked by court intrigues.

Article key phrases:

Tenasserim, Irrawaddy delta, Anglo-Burmese War, French interests, Arakan, Ayutthaya, resident population, Assam, political pressure, Bengal, delta, general pattern, demise, Ava, attack, rise, capital, timber, Dutch, Thai, century, sea, context, land, east, areas, Syriam, remainder, turn


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