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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best insights into modern Burma, 24 Mar 2010
This review is from: The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma (Paperback)
Post colonial Burma hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons. During colonial times Burma has more recognition, though shamefully it was treated as a part of India from full colonization until 1935. Even little Sri Lanka always had a separate government quite divorced from the Indian administration.

This book is part ancient history, part modern history and also semi autobiographical weaving in the author's own involvement through his Burmese UN Secretary General grandfather U Thant, and his lineage to the last king of Burma Thibaw, leading to U Thant's relationship to Burma's last popular Prime Minister U Nu and rise as secretary general of the UN.

What were the mistakes and events that made Burma a modern basket case for a military dictatorship given it was a land full of potential in agriculture and natural resources with a theoretical head start under British imperialism? Surprisingly the author does not blame the British except in a subtle way, starting with Randolph Churchill to whom the takeover of Burma was an electoral ploy with disastrous consequences for its history.

This book is quite gripping and describes the entity that is Burma from its very beginnings to its peoples and diverse regions. I don't think the book pays enough attention to the relationship Burma had to Sri Lanka. Southern Buddhism more likely came to Burma from Ceylon rather than South India along with a number of cultural influences placed in South India. This aside, the book charts the rise of militaristic kings who were the bane of neighboring states like Thailand. The capitulation of Burma to the British in 1885 is both shameful and tragic and brought the country under Indian rule. Burma was probably treated as a backwater of the Indian empire and lost significant territory to Bengal. As a relatively successful colonial enterprise, it was a target for Japanese conquest and the country was bombed and taken over by the Japanese leaving the British shocked, stampeding back to India. Independence brought a withdrawl from the commonwealth and a slippery slope to civil war and chaos.

The writing is exciting and very moving highlighting many interesting details like a little known British Botanist Frank Kingdon Ward and how Rangood was Bombed around 1942. There is really good pace, adventure, analysis and profiling of politicians like U San and a final appraisal of the bleakness and how to cure it. Myint-U is very diplomatic at dealing with the culprits of the woes of Burma from the British to General Ne-Win who established the military government. His proposed solutions are intelligent and realistic.

This is a must read for political historians and colonial buffs about the politics of the golden land. Can't recommend it too heavily for SE Asians and interested parties from India and Sri Lanka.
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