Anglo-Burmese War, First


Anglo-Burmese War, First
   (1824-1826)
   War between Burma and British India broke out on two fronts in January 1824: Cachar in northeastern India and the border between Burmese-ruled Arakan (Rhakine) and British Bengal. The latter had been the site of border clashes and insurgent activity by Arakanese rebels since King Bodawpaya conquered and sacked the kingdom of Arakan in 1784. The Burmese commander, Maha Bandula, adopted an aggressive policy of catching the British in a double pincer movement, planning to invade Bengal from Arakan while a second force would enter British Indian territory from the northeastern hills; his goal was apparently the conquest of Bengal. But Maha Bandula's strategy was thwarted by an unexpected British landing at Rangoon (Yangon) on May 10, 1824. Forced to return home from Arakan, he attempted to blockade the British in Rangoon, but was killed in battle in April 1825 at Danubyu (now in Irrawaddy [Ayeyarwady] Division). The British expeditionary force moved north along the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River, capturing Prome (Pyay) and coming within 64 kilometers of the royal capital at Ava (Inwa). His capital endangered, King Bagyidaw (r. 1819-1838) was obliged to sign the Treaty of Yandabo on February 24, 1826; it provided for cession of the territories of Arakan and Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) to the British, recognition of British dominance over the small states of northeastern India (including Cachar, Assam, and Manipur), a million-pound indemnity, and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ava and Calcutta. When the indemnity was paid in full, British forces quit Rangoon, in December 1826.
   The war was a classic instance of the clash between two expanding empires. Though the Burmese fought with great courage in defense of their homeland, British superiority in technology and organization prevailed, though at a high price, because 15,000 out of a total force of 40,000 British Indian troops died, mostly from disease and lack of adequate supplies. The war marked a shift in Burma's relations with Britain from the offensive to the defensive. But with the exception of King Mindon (r. 1853-1878), Burmese monarchs failed to find a way of dealing effectively with the people they dismissively called the Kalapyu ("white Indians"). The Second and Third AngloBurmese Wars were examples of gunboat diplomacy rather than protracted wars and resulted in Burma's complete colonization.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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