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11 - The Third Anglo-Burmese War and the Pacification of Burma, 1885–1895

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 2021

Stephen M. Miller
University of Maine, Orono
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What Rudyard Kipling called the 'campaign of lost footsteps' was the longest campaign fought by the Victorian army. Those resisting the British in an increasingly difficult guerrilla war were characterized as mere bandits or dacoits. Many, however, were former Burmese soldiers. Monks were also prominent in the resistance. The pacifcation campaign was then extended to the hill tribes who were no more willing to accept British administration than the other groups living in Burma. The extremely difficult nature of campaigning in the terrain and climate of Burma was not sufficiently appreciated, the War Office choosing to see the effort required – seen as a ‘subaltern’s war’ – largely as 'police' work. Intended regime change had not been accompanied by any consideration of the likely implications. The initial force deployed was not sufficient to ensure proper security in the aftermath of occupation. Prolonged insurgency then necessitated deploying a force far larger than originally intended or anticipated, the pacification campaign employing at peak over 31,000 troops and 32,000 police. Evolving military and civil measures eventually brought order by 1895 but proved destructive to Burmese society. British preference for the recruitment of hill tribes into police and armed forces equally sowed seeds for future divisions.

Queen Victoria's Wars
British Military Campaigns, 1857–1902
, pp. 220 - 239
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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Further Reading

Ali, M. S. ‘The Beginnings of British Rule in Upper Burma: The Study of British Policy and Burmese Resistance, 1885–90’. Unpub. PhD, London, 1976.Google Scholar
Aung-Thwin, Michael. ‘The British “pacification” of Burma: Order without meaning’. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 16 (1985): 245–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beckett, Ian F. W.The campaign of the lost footsteps: The pacification of Burma, 1885-95.’ Small Wars and Insurgencies 30 (2019): 9941019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Browne, Major Edmond. The Coming of the Great Queen: A Narrative of the Acquisition of Burma. London: Harrison & Son, 1888.Google Scholar
Charney, Michael. A History of Modern Burma. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Charney, Michael. ‘Armed rural folk elements of pre-colonial warfare in the artistic representations and written accounts of the pacification campaign (1886–1889) in Burma’. In Charney, Michael and Wellen, Kathryn (eds.) Warring Societies of Pre-colonial Southeast Asia: Local Cultures of Conflict within a Regional Context. Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2018: 155–81.Google Scholar
Sir Crosthwaite, Charles. The Pacification of Burma. London: Edward Arnold, 1912.Google Scholar
Geary, Grattan. Burma, After the Conquest. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1886.Google Scholar
Hall, Harold Fielding. The Soul of a People. London: Macmillan, 1906.Google Scholar
Intelligence Branch, Army Headquarters. Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India, Volume 5: Burma. Simla: Government Monotype Press, 1907.Google Scholar
Iwaki, Takahirp. ‘The village system and Burmese society: Problems involved in the enforcement process of the Upper Burma village regulation of 1887’. Journal of Burma Studies 19 (2015): 113–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Myint, Ni Mi. Burma’s Struggle against British Imperialism, 1885–95. Rangoon: Universities Press, 1983.Google Scholar
Myint-U, Thant. The Making of Modern Burma. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Newland, A. G. E. The Image of War or Service in the Chin Hills. Calcutta: Thacker-Spink, 1894.Google Scholar
Nisbet, John. Burma Under British Rule – And Before. 2 vols. Westminster: Archibald Constable, 1901.Google Scholar
Roy, Kaushik. The Army in British India: From Colonial Warfare to Total War, 1857–1947. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.Google Scholar
Stewart, A. T. Q. The Pagoda War: Lord Dufferin and the Fall of the Kingdom of Ava, 1885–86. London: Faber & Faber, 1972.Google Scholar
Taylor, Robert H. ‘Colonial forces in British Burma: A national army postponed.’ In Rettig, Tobias and Hack, Karl (eds). Colonial Armies in Southeast Asia London: Routledge, 2009.Google Scholar
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Winston, W. R. Four Years in Upper Burma. London: C. H. Kelly, 1892.Google Scholar

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