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Interesting But Biased
on 3 April 2011
This is a well-written and fluent account of Burmese history from the earliest times, entwined with a history of the author's family.
It deserves three rather than five stars because it treats the whole British colonial period extremely unfairly. The author follows the fashion of blaming the ex-colonial power for practically all the ills of society up to the present time, which of course is absurd. He nostalgically mourns the loss of the Burmese monarchy--for which he blames the British-- but admits that the reigns of the last kings were hopelessly blighted by court intrigue, internecine revolt and murder.
The author also complains that, when his grandfather, U Thant, was young, an elderly Englishman poked a walking stick in his direction in order to move him off a park bench in Rangoon and that, in the 1930's, Burmese students at Oxford and Cambridge found that they were not immediately welcomed. But it must be pointed out that all young people, regardless of race, may well meet a real curmudgeon or two and there will always be fellow students who are rough and challenging. Then again, regardless of race, creed, etc., one can almost any time be badly injured or murdered. So it's perhaps best not to hold on to very small grievances simply to make a racial point.
Two world wars weakened the British and brought about the loss of an empire, which by comparison with other regimes, ancient and modern, was remarkably orderly, open, flexible, free of fear and perhaps above all - civilised. It is salutary for us to remember this.