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Review by Patricia Herbert:
First published in 1991 (and reprinted, with minor revisions, in 1993), this revised and updated second edition of Martin Smith's much acclaimed political history of Burma includes a new concluding chapter (chapter 21) entitled The 1990s: Deadlock or the Dawning of New Realities?. All followers of the scene are aware of the country's current political stalemate or deadlock and many readers may be tempted to turn first to this final chapter in search of a prescription for resolving Burma's many urgent problems. But Smith wisely refrains from offering any quick-fix solutions or predictions, stating merely that in the final analysis it must and will be the peoples of Burma that decide their political destiny. His new chapter gives a balanced and realistic assessment of the 1990s - independent Burma's fifth decade of political impasse and conflict - and concludes that while the future is increasingly in the new generation's hands, it is also vital to reflect on the lessons of the past.
Burma - Insurgency and the
Politics of Ethnicity
by Martin Smith
Hardback: £50.00, US$69.95
Paperback: £20.00, US$29.95
(Society members: £15.00 / $24.00 inc P&P)
544 pp - Maps etc.
Publisher: ZED BOOKS
7 Cynthia Street
London N1 9JF
Tel: +44 (0)0171 837 8466
Fax: 0171 833 3960
Zed Web Site:
| Indeed, it is precisely in Smith's presentation and reassessment of
Burma's complex past that the strength and merit of this book lies. The
emphasis Smith places and the level of detail he provides on the
national minorities and the still unresolved problems of ethnic
insurgency and lack of national unity is unsurpassed by any other
political history of Burma. |
The result, based on extensive research and interviews with many leading participants, is an outstanding major study of the complexities of the long-running wars between the government, the Communist Party of Burma, the Karen National Union and myriad other ethnic and regional movements. His first chapter entitled The Burmese Way to Stagnation and the Crisis of 1988 has great impact, dealing as it does with the dramatic events of that momentous year, and acts as a springboard to the re-examination of the many complex causes which had brought Burma, in Smith's words, to the edge of such bloodshed, despair and disaster.
In a further twenty chapters, Smith charts the rise of
modern political parties in the British colonial and Japanese occupation
periods, examining the roots of political conflict and insurrections in
the parliamentary era and the Ne Win era, as well as politics in the
1980s and 1990s including the aftermath of the Communist Party of
Burma's collapse in 1989, the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi and the National
League for Democracy, the student movement, the 1990 general election
and the continuing grip on the country of the military regime (formerly
the SLORC, now known as the SPDC). The helpful list of Acronyms and
Abbreviations (pp. xi-xiii) has been revised for this new edition to
include new groups such as the DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) and
the USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association) and a third
chart added (pp. xvi-xvii) on Status of Armed Ethnic Opposition Groups,
1998 which lists the main ceasefire organizations (in order of
agreement) and the non ceasefire forces and their leaders.
All in all this is
an indispensable work for any serious student of modern Burma's volatile
The Japanese Invasion
by Ian Lyall Grant
and Kazuo Tamayama
6 St Martin's Square
32 maps, 67 photos
HB. ISBN 0-9521083-1-3
£25.00 inc UK p&p
plus £3.00 postage outside UK.
Review by John McEnery:|
This superb military history, using much new information from Japanese sources as well as British, breaks fresh ground as an authoritative and balanced account of Japan's invasion of Burma in January 1942.
The principal author, Major General Lyall Grant, opens by presenting the geo-political and strategic considerations which led to a fatal British military weakness in Burma. When the Japanese, with some help from Aung San's Burma Independence Army, proceeded to exploit this weakness with great speed and verve, the British, despite some last-minute reinforcement, notably by 7 British Armoured Brigade, were incapable of stemming their relentless advance. The result was the longest fighting retreat ever undertaken by British arms.
General Lyall Grant took part in this retreat as a Major in the Bengal
Sappers. His meticulous research in both British and Japanese records
enables him to describe with great clarity the almost continual series
of battles involved. The quite excellent detailed maps covering every
engagement make it easy for the reader to follow the bold Japanese
tactics and the British reaction to them.
In this epic campaign the raw British infantry force, although greatly helped by British armour, was no match for the Japanese. Yet it was by no means overrun. Surviving units, especially 17 Indian Division, retreated into India as a veteran fighting force. Over two years later, suitably reinforced, they would inflict crushing defeats on the Japanese Army which led to the reconquest of Burma and to Aung San's army changing sides.
This book has to be the definitive military account of the Japanese invasion and is a major contribution to the history of World War II. It is also an astonishing example of British/Japanese co-operation in military history.
Review by John Wall:|
Military historians and veterans will welcome the news that a library has been established in London for books and papers on the war in Burma, 1942-1945. The library owes its origin to the enterprise of members of the Burma Star Association and the Burma Campaign Fellowship Group, the latter having been founded in 1990 and which has done so much to improve understanding between Japanese and British veterans. In collecting the material, the net was spread far and wide: in addition to British publications there are books from the United States, India, Burma, Australia and Canada.
Burma Campaign Memorial Library Catalogue
by Gordon Graham MC MA
SOAS Library Book Shop
London WC1H 0XG
One section lists a few pictorial histories of the campaign. Perhaps the library could add to this aspect by starting a collection of photos? Taken alongside the material already available in the British Library and the Imperial War Museum, it looks as if London will be a prime source for future researchers into that once-neglected theatre of war. ãOld men forgetä, as the saying goes, but now old campaigners will have plenty of opportunity to refresh their memories!