Burma (now Myanmar)

The first unified state centred on the Irrawaddy delta is founded by the Burmans in the 11th Century. Strongly influenced by Buddhism and incorporating existing Pyu and Mon communities, the Burman kingdom brings a 250 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, with traders from Portugal, Britain, the Netherlands and France all vying for business.

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 open struggle by Burmese wanting freedom from British colonial rule begins on 18 November 1920 when a small group of students hold a strike against the British University Education Act. The anniversary of the strike will become Burma's national day.

Burma is separated from the British India in 1937, as the nationalist movement for independence begins to grow, led by 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. The destabilisation of the country begins almost immediately, with Burma's many tribal minorities resisting centralised control.

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.

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