V. The Modern Period, 1789–1914 > D. South and Southeast Asia, 1753–1914 > 2. Southeast Asia, 1753–1914
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See Southeast Asia, 1500–1800) (See 1753)
2. Southeast Asia, 1753–1914
The conquest and subsequent political domination of Southeast Asia by Western colonial powers were the most outstanding features of this era. In the first half of the period, political entities continued to evolve according to indigenous understandings of power relationships and political centers. Between 1870 and 1910, however, the European colonial powers redrew the map of Southeast Asia, establishing boundaries that would ultimately result in the nation-states that constitute modern Southeast Asia. Even Siam, the only remaining independent Southeast Asian kingdom, was strongly influenced in its actions by the presence of British and French colonial powers in its adjoining territories.  1
As they redrew the map of the area, the colonial powers profoundly altered local underpinnings of political centers. Rather than being built on relationships among power holders in the area, the new boundaries connected particular power centers with particular European colonial states. Europeans thus created new political frameworks on which they imposed modern bureaucratic systems. Over the decades of their colonial rule they introduced, enlarged, and perfected the apparatus necessary for such systems: transportation systems, including railroads; government departments of all sorts; and modern fiscal and tax systems (including the standardization of currency systems, banking systems, insurance firms, and all-purpose service institutions, i.e., agency houses). In addition, the European colonial powers introduced changes in the education systems that were to have long-range and significant implications for future social and political developments.  2
The expansion of European political power conjoined imperial economic exploitation of the region; significant economic changes resulted from the new political economy wherein colonial powers ruled directly. After 1870, export industries increased rapidly until they came to dominate the economies of Southeast Asia. Population steadily and rapidly increased and was accompanied by significant migrations into and within the area. Statistics show spectacular growth: Burma's population more than doubled, Java's increased at a rate of almost 1.9 percent per annum, and Siam and parts of French Indochina grew at around 2 percent per annum. A considerable proportion of the growth came from immigration, especially by Chinese and Indian trading groups. The economic changes were based on capitalist, world-market-driven forces. Creation of “national” economic structures served to forge three types of economic linkages: to the world economy in general, to the economies of the various metropolitan powers, and also among the different parts of the new colonies themselves.  3
Within this context, a number of indigenous reformulations sought to provide ideological and cultural stability. In Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, Buddhist reform and non-Buddhist solutions were formulated in response to the cultural crisis posed by intrusion of the West. In Indonesia, debate between those espousing revivalist versus modernist reconstructions of Islam prompted social and intellectual changes as well as resistance movements and new political parties. Much of this ferment focused on a new emphasis regarding ethnic identity, in which definitions of community reflected the complex interaction of religious movements, immigration patterns, and the attempt to impose Western sociological assumptions. (See Southeast Asia)  4
a. Mainland Southeast Asia
1. Burma
The modern Burmese state was built upon the conquests of Alaungpaya (1752–60), who founded Burma's last dynasty, the Konbaung (1752–1885). His successors managed to repulse invasions by the Chinese (1766–69) but were unable to maintain themselves in Siam (1771).  5
Bodawpaya, king. Conquest of Arakan (1784) and further encroachments on Indian territory. Peace with Siam (1793).  6
Bagyidaw, king. He continued the advance toward India, seizing Manipur and Assam (1822) and invading Kachar (1824). This policy of expansion soon brought him into conflict with the British East India Company because interests and perceptions were in conflict as to the standards of interstate relations.  7
FIRST BURMESE WAR. Despite vigorous resistance the Burmese were unable to withstand the force of a modern army. The British, under Sir Archibald Campbell, took Rangoon, and then Syriam, Tavoy, Mergui, Martaban, and Pegu. An attempt by the Burmese to recapture Rangoon failed (1825). The British advanced up the Irrawaddy and at the same time overran Arakan. On Feb. 24, 1826, by the Treaty of Yandabu (near Ava) the British secured Assam, Arakan, and the Tenasserim coast, as well as an indemnity, the conclusion of a commercial treaty, and the right to send a resident to Ava (discontinued, 1837). Humiliation of defeat and terms of peace led to palace revolution and Bagyidaw's loss of throne to his brother, Tharawaddi Min, king (1837–46).  8
Pagan Min. Under his reign the friction with the British continued. The Burmese rulers continued to treat the British with contempt and to hamper the development of British trade. Lapse of Anglo-Burmese diplomatic contacts.  9
SECOND BURMESE WAR. Rangoon was again taken by the British. Pegu was also occupied and annexed (Jan. 20, 1853). A revolution in the capital led to the deposition of the king and the elevation of Mindon Min.  10
Mindon Min, attempted to introduce administrative reforms, but the pressure of the looming power of British India made it difficult to introduce a program to revitalize and strengthen the state. He accepted the British gains without concluding a formal treaty and attempted, throughout his reign, to maintain friendly relations with his neighbor, British-controlled “Lower Burma,” a designation the British created after announcing this territorial annexation. They were unable to gain official Burmese recognition of this status. British Burma consisted of Arakan, Pegu, and Tenasserim.  11
Mandalay, built by the king, became the capital of the country.  12
Conclusion of a commercial treaty with Great Britain. The customs duty was fixed at 5 percent, and the British were given the right to trade throughout the country.  13
THIBAW became king, following a bloody succession conflict. Unsuccessfully, he attempted to open diplomatic relations with the British on terms of equality as a ruler of a sovereign nation. At the same time he established contact with French interests and negotiated with them for the organization of a royal bank and for the construction of a railroad from Mandalay to the Indian frontier. The British felt threatened by the Burmese king's approaches to its European rivals. This resulted in the Third Burmese War.  14
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.