Burmese Imperialism

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Attitudes of British Imperialists in Burma and the Burmese Response

The British began colonizing India and its surrounding countries during the early 1800’s and soon had several profitable colonies in the Eastern Hemisphere. The arrival of the British imperialists in the country had a profound effect on the native population. This interaction between dominators and dominated is perfectly illustrated In George Orwell’s Burmese Days. This novel highlights the imperial interactions in the country of Burma just to the east of India, which in the mid 1920’s was part of India. The British imperialists believed that they were better than the Burmese in every way and the Burmese would be nothing if they weren’t subservient to the English
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As time went on, the Burmese nationalist movement began to gain steam especially in the universities. As the Europeans would walk down the road, native schoolboys would often jeer at them and mock them (34). On one such occasion Ellis snapped and hit one of the schoolboys, blinding him. Favor was already against the Europeans, so that is all it took to start a massive revolt. The natives were sick of the Europeans taking advantage of them. One leader of the revolt stated that there was “no justice for us natives in your courts, so we must punish him ourselves” (247). The riot revealed a majority anti-colonial sentiment throughout the Burmese people, and that the natives had enough of being pushed around. While some natives, such as the rebels and nationalists went directly against the government, others used the European corruption to their own benefit. Orwell illustrated this happening through the characters of Ma Hla May and U Po Kyin. Hla May was Mr. Flory’s native mistress whom Flory dismissed upon meeting Elizabeth. Upon her dismissal May proceeded to blackmail Flory and effectively ruin his life for her personal gain. She saw the other natives who had not been in her position as savages and refused to live amongst them after her fairly privileged life as a mistress (155). So (with a little prodding from U Po Kyin) she continued to work Flory and the system until he was driven to suicide. U Po Kyin was a major example of working the system the imperialists created for his own gain. Kyin was a low level native officer who wished to move up in the ranks until he was honored and in great power. To get there he took bribes, blackmailed people, and ruined reputations in order to move up in the ranks. He claimed to “know the European mind”,

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