Animals Against Whiteness

Apparently, some animals in Burma had a particular loathing for White people. According to the Fitz William Pollok and W. S. Thom’s 1900 guide to wild sports, buffaloes were especially ill-disposed to White skin. Informing would-be imperial hunters of the animal’s general ferocity, they warned that, ‘Even the tame cow, that will allow itself to…

Translating Titles

During the colonial period a series of white men published books about elephants based on their experiences of working with them in Burma. By independence in 1948, there was a clear canon of texts about elephants. Authors cited certain writers who were deemed to be ‘authorities’ in the subject: Mitchell, Pfaff, Hepburn, Ferrier, Evans, Sanderson…

Race and Empire on the 13.24 Train from Cleethorpes

[Trigger Warning: Racism, Homophobia] “Go on, drink up. Don’t be a faggot.” A can of lager was pushed in front of me. The gesture was a demand. I was being told to demonstrate whether I should be included or not—to show them that I wasn’t queer, to show them I belonged. “No”, cut in the…

The Criminal Tribes of Burma

Back in May last year I wrote a blog that speculated on why it was that Criminal Tribes legislation was introduced into colonial Burma so late. The Act was originally enacted in 1871 and was being used in most parts of British India by 1911. But it was not brought to Burma until 1924. The…

Capturing Burma’s Ethnic Diversity

The UK National Archives have released an album on Flickr of 121 images taken in Burma in 1903. They were originally held in the Colonial Office photographic archive. Much like the imperial ethnographers who worked in the country, these photographers were attempting to capture the differences between ethnic groups – especially those in the ‘remote’…

Condiments of Colonialism

A few days ago I read a blog post on Le Minh Khai’s great Southeast Asian history blog on Worcestershire Sauce adverts in 1930s Siam, and the Don Draper-esq mental acrobatics involved in selling this quintessentially English condiment to Thais by telling them that Americans liked it. Then today, thanks to Thant Myint-U’s facebook page,…

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

Last week  it 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….

Remembering Empire in Bristol and Brussels

I was recently part of a small delegation of historians from the University of Bristol involved in a trip to the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels. The purpose of the visit was to consider the ways that imperialism and its legacies have been approached in the museum, and the difficulties of publicly engaging…