Burma (now Myanmar)

The Burman kingdom is founded in the Irrawaddy delta during the 11th Century. The kingdom is strongly influenced by Buddhism. It brings a 250-year period of relative peace characterised by the widespread building of pagodas.

The kingdom is thrown into disarray in 1287 by a Mongol invasion, with stability not being restored until the foundation of the Toungoo dynasty in the 16th Century. Around the same time, the influence of Europe begins to be felt in the region as traders from Portugal, Britain, the Netherlands and France seek business opportunities.

British intrusion mounts at the start of the 19th Century, culminating in 1886 when Britain takes full control of the country, naming it Burma, incorporating it into their Indian colony, and moving the capital from Mandalay to Rangoon (now Yangon).

The Burmese want freedom from British colonial rule. Their struggle begins in earnest on 18 November 1920 when a small group of students hold a strike against the British University Education Act. The anniversary of the strike becomes Burma's national day.

The nationalist movement for independence grows under the leadership of U Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi's father, and U Nu.

The British are temporarily forced out by the Japanese during the Second World War and leave for good on 4 January 1948 when Burma is declared independent. Burma's many tribal minorities are resistant to centralised control. Instability sets in almost immediately.

In 1962 the government is overthrown in a military coup d'état led by General Ne Win. The coup leaders attempt to create a single-party socialist state but end up ruining the country's economy. Popular unrest against the military regime grows, coming to a head in 1987-88 when rioting breaks out. The regime responds with force.