Retiring Elephants in the Southern Shan States

In 1936 the imperial government sanctioned the abolition of the elephant establishments used by several colonial officials serving in the Southern Shan States—the more accessible part of the hilly regions of northeast colonial Burma. Most of the elephants were sold off. But two elderly female elephants did not attract any buyers. They were both around…

‘The Philosopher Burmese Prince’ and the Air-Pump

The other week I found a digitized archive of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, a periodical originally founded under a different name by the famed colonial Orientalist scholar William Jones. I was having a flick through looking for articles on Burma and found the following little article from early 1833. I haven’t…

Anti-Islamic Abuse in Burma and Britain, the Colonial Past and Present

Last week ┬áit was the anniversary of the anti-Indian riots that broke out in colonial Rangoon in 1930. They were ignited when striking Indian dock workers came into conflict with the Burmese labourers recruited to replace them. This clash then spilled over into a broader wave of anti-Indian violence, leaving over one hundred Indians dead….

Plague and Photography in Colonial Burma

I recently stumbled across some fascinating photographs of colonial measures taken to arrest the spread of bubonic plague in Mandalay in 1906 through the online archive of medical history images available through the Wellcome Trust, London. These photographs show Burmese residents apparently willingly submitting themselves to British medicine. In the top photo a group are…

Is Burma ‘Going South’?

I recently read Jean and John Comaroff’s article ‘Theory from the South: Or, how Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa’ in Anthropological Forum (for those of you who either don’t have access to the journal, or would just rather listen instead of read, you can watch a video of John Comaroff delivering a lecture on the…