The Defeat of Ava: The First Anglo-Burmese War 1824-26
By Terence R. Blackburn
Prior to 1824 Burma was a country visited by a handful of Englishmen, apart that is from the port of Rangoon. The capital at Ava was five hundred miles up the Irrawaddy river, where the monarch, King Bodawpaya (1772-1819), ruled. The king and his court were cutoff from the outside world. Small wonder then that they had no conception of the power of the British, so unlike the neighbouring petty kingdoms the Burmese had vanquished with such ease. They believed themselves invincible.
Their arrogance and extreme cruelty are evidenced by their treatment of the people whose countries they had conquered. This became only too apparent when they occupied Arakan. So repressive were their actions that almost two-thirds of the inhabitants migrated to British Chittagong, from where they organized raids into their homeland. The British turned a blind eye, indeed, according to the Burmese they actively encouraged the incursions. Naturally the Burmese took reprisals. Due to a shortage of troops, many of whom had been fighting in the Third Maratha War in India, action was seldom taken. This the Burmese attributed to cowardice and became more more bellicose, culminating in armed raids by large bodies of Burmese troops. The British were unable to ignore this threat, and fearful of the reaction of their subjects in India and public opinion back home if they appeared to be unwilling to engage the rag-tag-and-bobtail army of the Burmese.
On 5th. March 1824 the Governor General declared war on the Burmese nation. The war was described as “the worst managed war in British military history.” It cost the British taxpayer 15 million pounds sterling and the lives of 15,000 British and Indian men. The Burmese losses were incalculable.
New Delhi 2009
Size 215 x 300 mm
446 pages, 3 pp. maps, 14 pp. illus. in col.
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