The history of the Anglo-Burmese War: It was a war between the British and the Burmese with respect to trade and commerce and territorial expansion. The war was fought in three phases. Such as the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824-26, the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, and the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885-86.

The History of Anglo-Burmese War-Introduction

Around 1750, a Burman Chief Alompra conquered the Province of Pegu in Lower Burma from Tailangas and set up their monarchy. His successors Badawpaya and Hpagyidoa conquered Tenasserim in 1766, Upper and Lower Burma in 1793, and Arakan in the year 1784. Also, they conquered Manipur in 1813 and Assam in the year 1816. Thus, the Burmese came close to the British dominion at Chittagong in the east.

The Burmese advance towards Chittagong. Thus, they became a great concern for the English company or the East India Company. So, they sent envoys constantly to Burma to establish trade relations with her. Meantime, the British Government at Calcutta gave shelter to some fugitive tribes who made inroads to the Burmese territory. The Burmese king demanded the release of the refugees and the surrender of Chittagong, Dacca, Murshidabad, and Cossimbazar to Burma. But Hastings refused it.

Meanwhile, the Burmese commanders captured the Shahpuri Island near Chittagong and chase away the British outposts to Dudpatli. Further, they attempt to attack the British territories in Bengal. As a result, Lord Amherst declared the First Anglo-Burmese War on Feb. 24, 1824. Thus, the British forces attacked the Burmese forces. Consequently, General Bandula occupied Prome, the capital of Lower Burma within three weeks. Burmese king Hpagyidoa surrendered and signed the Treaty of Yandaboo on Feb24, 1826.

However, the new Burmese king Tharawoddy refused to accept the Treaty of Yandaboo. He neglected the British Resident and ill-treated the British merchants. Besides, he imposed heavy times on the merchants in Burma. The merchants complained to Dalhousie against it. Lord Dalhousie deputed Commodore George Lambert to Rangoon to recover the collected taxes from the British. Also, Lambert captured the Yellow Ship of the Burmese king and demanded Rs 1, 00,000. The Burmese refused to accept the demands and the British declared the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852.

Thereafter, the British sent her British army to Rangoon which occupied Rangoon, Bassein, Prome, and Pegu in October 1852. On December 20, 1852, Lord Dalhousie proclaimed the annexation of Lower Burma. Later, the British forced the Burmese king to sign two more commercial treaties in 1862 and 1867. Thus, with the signing of the new treaties, the British became supreme in trade and commerce in Lower Burma.

However, a new element was added around 1884. In the Far East during the year 1884, France had built a colonial empire. She possessed Cochin, China, and Tonkin. Also, she pushed further towards Upper Burma. At the same time, the Burmese king welcomed France and concluded a commercial treaty with her in 1885. Meanwhile, the Burmese Government charges an English firm, the Bombay-Burma trading Corporation Company with tax evasion and demanded Rs. 23 lakhs as a fine. On the other hand, the British Government sent an ultimatum and asked the Burmese king Thibaw to sign various agreements.

But, the Burmese king rejected the demands. Thus, the English company sent troops and within a fortnight they occupied Mandalay and took the king prisoner. As a result, the British added Upper Burma to Lower Burma. On January 1, 1886, they formed the United Province of Lower and Upper Burma with Rangoon as its headquarters under British India.

Thus, Burma was annexed by the British Government through the long course of three wars during 1824-1885 and their relationship ended in servitude and dependence like India.

First Anglo-Burmese War

Burma, to the extreme east of India, became an expansionist and a powerful kingdom during the latter part of the 18th century. Around 1750, a Tibeto-Chinese race of Burman chief Alompra conquered the province of Pegu in Lower Burma from Talaings or Tailangas and built there a strong monarchy.

Alompra’s successors notably Badowpaya and Hpagyidoa extent the Burmese kingdom in different directions. They seized Tenasserim from Siam in 1766, absorbed Upper and Lower Burma in 1793. Also, they annexed the kingdom of Arakan in 1784, conquered Manipur in 1813, and Assam in the year 1816. The Burmese rulers came very close to the eastern border of Chittagong of the British dominion.

Thus, the advance of the Burmese towards the eastern frontier of the British Company’s dominion made the Anglo-Burmese relation tense, finally making war inevitable. However, the British Government of Calcutta, being seriously engaged in other parts of India, tries to prevent at first an immediate rupture. So, she sent envoys to Burma in the year 1795, 1797, 1802, 1809 and 1811 to establish commercial and diplomatic relations with Burma. But, the missions were not a success.

Meanwhile, the British Government at Calcutta gave shelter to some fugitive tribes who made inroads to the Burmese territory. The Burmese government demanded their release but the British at Chittagong refused to surrender. Then the Burmese king demanded the surrender of Chittagong, Dacca, Murshidabad, and Cossimbazar from British. Governor-General Lord Hastings wrote to the Burmese king with the comment that the letter was a forgery.

At the same time, the Burmese commanders soon conquered Assam and the British Shahpuri Island near Chittagong in 1821-22. Then they turn away the British outposts to Dudpatli. Also, the Burmese made preparation to attack the British territories in Bengal. These aggressions were too much for the ever-rising British to bear.

Thus, Lord Amherst who succeeded Lord Hastings declared the First Anglo-Burmese War on February 24, 1824. The British forces attacked the Burmese forces from two sides. The war lasted for two long years. Both parties suffered heavy losses. Finally, the British forces defeat and killed the Burmese General Maha Bandula. After three weeks, the British occupied Prome, the capital of Lower Burma. The Burmese king Hpagyidoa, after many unsuccessful frantic efforts, signed the Treaty of Yaudaboo on Feb. 24, 1826, and agreed to:

To withdraw from Assam, Cachar, and Jaintia

To surrender Arakan, Yeh, Tavoy, Mergui, and Tenasserim to the British,

Also, to recognize the independence of Manipur and recognize Gambir Singh as its king.

To enter into a commercial treaty.

To admit a British a Resident at Ava, the capital of Burma and

And also to pay a war indemnity of one and a half crore of rupees.

Thus, from the treaty, there is no doubt that the English hold important advantages from the First Anglo-Burmese War. The Burmese Empire was deprived of most of its sea frontage by the surrender of the two long narrow provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim. They were further denied of their newly acquired territories like Assam, Cachar and the greater part of their sea-coast. Also, Manipur became practically independent of the Burmese occupation with the help of the British.

Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852

The Treaty of Yandaboo, 1826 did not settle the relation between the British Company and the Burmese Government. Neither the party was satisfied with what one gained and lost.

Thus, the Burmese authority looked upon the English with doubt and hatred. More particularly the new Burmese king Tharrawoddy refused to accept the Treaty of Yandaboo. So he neglected the British Resident at Ava and ill-treated the British merchants who settled on the southern coast of Burma and Rangoon after 1826. Besides, a strong rumor was spread that the Burmese king was trying to solicit the support of China, France, and Siam. Thus, the British have imposed heavy fines more than what was settled by the treaty. Hence, the British merchants in general, Captain Sheppard and Captain Lewis in particular who became main sufferers at the maltreatment complained against the injustice and tyranny of the Burmese authority gave upon them.

Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India exploited the opportunity and decided to intervene to protect the prestige and dignity of the British merchants. He, therefore, deputed British commander Lambert to Rangoon to restore the wrongs made to the British merchants and recover the illegally collected sum of trade taxes from them. Lambert behaves in a very provocative manner and captured the royal vessel, the Yellow Ship of the Burmese king.

Thus, the Burmese Government agrees to fulfill all the demands of the English and requested to release the royal ship. But Lambert refused the request and demands that the Governor of Rangoon should be transferred, the King should apologize to the British and pay Rs 1, 00 000.

But, the Burmese king did not reply. Then Lord Dalhousie declares the second Anglo-Burmese War and sent a British army to Rangoon under General Godwin in May 1852. As a result, in the year October 1852, the British forces occupied Rangoon, Bassein, Prome, and Pegu. Thus, the whole of Lower Burma became under their control. Consequently, negotiation started between the two sides, but no formal agreement or treaty could be signed. Ultimately, with the green signal of the Court of Directors, the Governor-General made a bold proclamation and annexed Pegu or the Lower Burma on December 20, 1852, to the British Empire.

The annexation of Pegu was quite helpful to the English. It became a springboard for the final annexation of the whole of Upper Burma by them too. They got an extensive and fertile kingdom which helped their trading interest. Also, they got the sea coast of the Bay of Bengal which stretched from Chittagong to Rangoon. Besides, it blocked the Burmese Government from passing through the sea and helped in defending the British rule in Burma.

Third Anglo-Burmese War

The Burmese, after the second war with the British in 1852 realized the futility of resisting the British. Therefore the Burmese try to serve the British demands as far as possible.

Thus, the British company gradually increased its hold on Burma and forced her king to sign two more beneficial commercial treaties. The treaty in 1862 gave them the right to trade with China directly from Burma by streamers up to Irrawaddy and another treaty in 1867 granted them the monopoly of trade in Upper Burma on every article except oil, timber and precious stones.

But, the Anglo-Burmese relation had never been cordial, after 1852. Due to the Wars, Burma lost Lower Burma. Thus, the loss of Lower Burma became a source of irritation to Burmese king Mindon. Similarly, the Burmese medieval custom of removing shoes while attending the royal court and kneeling before the Burmese king was also equally disgusting to the British. Around this time, a new element was also added in the North-eastern politics. France had built their colonial empire in the Far East. In 1884, she possessed Cochin China, Tonkin and pushed further towards Upper Burma. Also, the Burmese king welcomes her and settled a commercial treaty in 1885.

But, the British traders in Burma were not ready to share their monopoly in trades with the French. So they pressurized upon the English company in Calcutta to annex Burma to enjoy absolute freedom in trades. Meanwhile, the Burmese Government charged an English firm, The Bombay-Burma Trading Corporation Company with tax evasion on the export of timber from their forest. Thus, they demand some arrears with a fine of Rs. 23 lakhs. Meantime, the French suffered serious reverses in Tonkin and refused to conclude commercial treaties with Burma.

The English sent an ultimatum to Burmese king Thibaw to

To receive a permanent British Resident at Mandalay and give him free access to the king without ceremonies

To submit all the cases relating to Bombay-Burma Trading Corporation to the Indian Viceroy

Also, to submit the Burmese foreign relation to the British control and

Also, to grant the British the right to trade with Yunnan through his dominion.

But, the Burmese king rejected the British demands. On refusal of their demands, in December 1885, the company sent General Pendergast with a force to annex Upper Burma. The Burmese army hardly makes any resistance and within a fortnight, Mandalay was occupied and the king was taken as a prisoner. Upper Burma was added to Lower Burma and on January 1, 1886. The British Government, by a proclamation, declare the formation of The United Province of Lower and Upper Burma with Rangoon as its headquarters under British India.


Thus, we can clearly say that the history of the Anglo-Burmese War was a war to secure Trade and Commerce and territorial expansions. The war takes place in 3 different events. The British won all the Wars, and made the Burmese to signed various treaties for the Benefits of the British.

Source: B.Sm. Sarma & B.R. Sharma

History of Modern India, Book

Note: There are some changes in the Length and Text of the Article.

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