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For nearly two decades Western governments and a growing activist community have been frustrated in their attempts to bring about a freer and more democratic Burma--through sanctions and tourist boycotts--only to see an apparent slide toward even harsher dictatorship. But what do we really know about Burma and its history? And what can Burma's past tell us about the presen For nearly two decades Western governments and a growing activist community have been frustrated in their attempts to bring about a freer and more democratic Burma--through sanctions and tourist boycotts--only to see an apparent slide toward even harsher dictatorship. But what do we really know about Burma and its history? And what can Burma's past tell us about the present and even its future? In "The River of Lost Footsteps," Thant Myint-U tells the story of modern Burma, in part through a telling of his own family's history, in an interwoven narrative that is by turns lyrical, dramatic, and appalling. His maternal grandfather, U Thant, rose from being the schoolmaster of a small town in the Irrawaddy Delta to become the UN secretary-general in the 1960s. And on his father's side, the author is descended from a long line of courtiers who served at Burma's Court of Ava for nearly two centuries. Through their stories and others, he portrays Burma's rise and decline in the modern world, from the time of Portuguese pirates and renegade Mughal princes through the decades of British colonialism, the devastation of World War II, and a sixty-year civil war that continues today and is the longest-running war anywhere in the world. "The River of Lost Footsteps" is a work both personal and global, a distinctive contribution that makes Burma accessible and enthralling. Thant Myint-U, educated at Harvard and Cambridge, has served on three United Nations peacekeeping operations, in Cambodia and in the former Yugoslavia, and was more recently the head of policy planning in the UN's Department of Political Affairs. He lives in New York City.


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For nearly two decades Western governments and a growing activist community have been frustrated in their attempts to bring about a freer and more democratic Burma--through sanctions and tourist boycotts--only to see an apparent slide toward even harsher dictatorship. But what do we really know about Burma and its history? And what can Burma's past tell us about the presen For nearly two decades Western governments and a growing activist community have been frustrated in their attempts to bring about a freer and more democratic Burma--through sanctions and tourist boycotts--only to see an apparent slide toward even harsher dictatorship. But what do we really know about Burma and its history? And what can Burma's past tell us about the present and even its future? In "The River of Lost Footsteps," Thant Myint-U tells the story of modern Burma, in part through a telling of his own family's history, in an interwoven narrative that is by turns lyrical, dramatic, and appalling. His maternal grandfather, U Thant, rose from being the schoolmaster of a small town in the Irrawaddy Delta to become the UN secretary-general in the 1960s. And on his father's side, the author is descended from a long line of courtiers who served at Burma's Court of Ava for nearly two centuries. Through their stories and others, he portrays Burma's rise and decline in the modern world, from the time of Portuguese pirates and renegade Mughal princes through the decades of British colonialism, the devastation of World War II, and a sixty-year civil war that continues today and is the longest-running war anywhere in the world. "The River of Lost Footsteps" is a work both personal and global, a distinctive contribution that makes Burma accessible and enthralling. Thant Myint-U, educated at Harvard and Cambridge, has served on three United Nations peacekeeping operations, in Cambodia and in the former Yugoslavia, and was more recently the head of policy planning in the UN's Department of Political Affairs. He lives in New York City.

30 review for The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leelas

    This is without a doubt the best introduction out there to Burmese history, and possibly the best introduction to Southeast Asian history in general. It is a 'personal history', written for general consumption, by one of the world's leading historians of Burma, and is a magnificent book in both a popular and academic sense. In this book, Thant Myint-U sets out to remind us that Burmese history did not begin with Aung San Suu Kyi, did not begin with Ne Win's military coup in 1962, did not begin wi This is without a doubt the best introduction out there to Burmese history, and possibly the best introduction to Southeast Asian history in general. It is a 'personal history', written for general consumption, by one of the world's leading historians of Burma, and is a magnificent book in both a popular and academic sense. In this book, Thant Myint-U sets out to remind us that Burmese history did not begin with Aung San Suu Kyi, did not begin with Ne Win's military coup in 1962, did not begin with World War 2, and did not begin with the Anglo-Burmese Wars of the 19th century. Beginning in the earliest times, Myint-U traces the history of this ancient and proud kingdom, interspersing his narrative with tales of his own life and ancestry. Despite the broad scope, he never loses sight of where the country is today, and ultimately, his gripping narrative puts Burma's current situation within the context of over a thousand years of history. For those who truly wish to understand Burma, and are sick of the one-dimensional portrait that the media paints, this book is an excellent antidote.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bob Newman

    ….and a country of lost chances I spent 10 years at Cornell University in upstate New York, far above Cayuga’s waters amidst farms, woods and small, quiet towns. A more unlikely place to find America’s premier center for Southeast Asian studies would be hard to imagine. In those days, there was one, terrible, Chinese restaurant in downtown Ithaca and that was the sole local connection to Asia, yet the library and the academic interest in the area created a collection of scholars and students ded ….and a country of lost chances I spent 10 years at Cornell University in upstate New York, far above Cayuga’s waters amidst farms, woods and small, quiet towns. A more unlikely place to find America’s premier center for Southeast Asian studies would be hard to imagine. In those days, there was one, terrible, Chinese restaurant in downtown Ithaca and that was the sole local connection to Asia, yet the library and the academic interest in the area created a collection of scholars and students dedicated to the cultures, history, politics, and economic future of Southeast Asia. In my later days there it was a center of opposition to the Vietnam War based on knowledge of the area. Cornell was perhaps the only place in America that offered instruction in Burmese, as well as Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Tagalog/Cebuano. This is by way of saying that for most of my life, I’ve been aware of Burma (Myanmar) and its neighbors and over the years, I’ve read a lot, having taken many courses on Southeast Asia back in those days, and continued reading as I grew older. There are some excellent histories of Southeast Asia, as well as many history books on the separate countries. I had never, however, read a history of Burma alone. There was Sudha Shah’s “The King in Exile” dealing with the last king of Burma who was packed off to an Indian backwater in 1885, and also Maurice Collis’ “The Land of the Great Image”, which really deals with a Portuguese priest’s epic voyage to the Arakan court back in the 17th century. So, I am really glad I found Thant Myint-U’s book which not only is a readable account of Burma’s long, turbulent history, but also incorporates personal and family history as he is the grandson of U Thant, who played a part in Burmese history after WW II, but also became Secretary General of the UN, during the 1960s. Best of all, it is a Burmese view of Burmese history rather than a European one, a view that does not dispute the bare facts, but explains and puts a different light on many aspects. I think there’s no need to go into the details of the history here—you can read it in the book if you choose—rather I think it important to say that Burma, with over 60 million people divided among a myriad ethnic and religious groups, is a seriously-overlooked country. What we need is context. What was the effect of losing their whole traditional political system in one fell swoop—something that did not happen in India or other Southeast Asian countries? Why the endless conflict since 1948? Why did Burma, unlike Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea, not morph from military rule to a more democratic system? Do we remember that Burma was the country most destroyed in WW II, along with Belarus (then the Belorussian SSR)? Why has the exploitation of resources in Burma looked like pillage more than industry? A bunch of low-grade civil wars have continued for the last 70 years. To cope with this series of mostly ethnic, but also political, conflicts, the army became the Arbiter of Fate in the country, the most powerful institution and impervious to sanctions, condemnations, boycotts, or other “punishments” of democratic countries. As the author says on the very last page, “The Burmese military machine is geared only toward identifying and either destroying or managing its enemies.” If you wonder why a supposedly-Buddhist country has treated the Muslim-minority Rohingya so brutally, that sentence should ring a bell. Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has had to remain silent in order to bring the country out of its isolation and poverty. You will find that during the British colonial period, beginning in 1824, slowly grabbing more and more territory till swallowing the whole in 1885, a huge number of people from India (which included Bangladesh and Pakistan then) settled in Burma and began to dominate commerce and industry. Resentments grew, a big percent fled back to the subcontinent during WW II, and most of the rest were expelled when Burma became independent after 1948. Combine this with the statement about the military. If France were judged solely on its treatment of Muslims and news of that country was limited to that subject, it would resemble Western news about Burma. The author, born into a family close to the center of Burma’s political life, can provide a large number of interesting personal details, which bring this history to life. Speaking of details, I think he might have paid a bit more attention to them, as I could find a few mistakes here and there and I’m a non-specialist who has never been to Burma. Anyway, if a very readable sweep of Burmese history appeals to you, you’ll definitely find it here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bobby

    Admittedly, I first picked up this book because I'm a Burmese American. While this is clearly the most accessible history of Burma, I think what I liked about it the most was that it was a history of a mid- to small- sized multicultural power sitting between larger forces (China, India, Britain, Japan). While there are quite a few books on the big powers and how they interact, this book is fascinating in that it looks not only at how smaller powers navigate, but also how small events in large po Admittedly, I first picked up this book because I'm a Burmese American. While this is clearly the most accessible history of Burma, I think what I liked about it the most was that it was a history of a mid- to small- sized multicultural power sitting between larger forces (China, India, Britain, Japan). While there are quite a few books on the big powers and how they interact, this book is fascinating in that it looks not only at how smaller powers navigate, but also how small events in large powers can have significant implications for the countries around them. Also, given that Burma is a natural crossroads, bringing in people from all across Asia and a few other places, it was quite interesting to see the interactions between people of different cultures and how Burma has been trying to deal with the fact that it has always been a multi-ethnic nation. I know some Burmese will challenge Thant Myint-U for his more conciliatory stance towards working with the Burmese government, but this is a strong book with much to teach people about not only Burma, but about how smaller countries work and how multi-ethnic communities work (and don't work) in other countries.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    When I first went to Myanmar, it was via the one-hour, dirt-cheap Air Asia flight to Yangon, and to go from aggressively shopping malled and Starbucked Bangkok to the dusty ruins of colonial Rangoon in an hour's time is a jarring experience to say the least. The question, then, is how did Myanmar fall that far behind so much of the rest of East Asia? Thant Myint-U is out to demolish a number of widely held myths, but he starts much earlier, with the slow nibbling to death of the Burmese Empire, i When I first went to Myanmar, it was via the one-hour, dirt-cheap Air Asia flight to Yangon, and to go from aggressively shopping malled and Starbucked Bangkok to the dusty ruins of colonial Rangoon in an hour's time is a jarring experience to say the least. The question, then, is how did Myanmar fall that far behind so much of the rest of East Asia? Thant Myint-U is out to demolish a number of widely held myths, but he starts much earlier, with the slow nibbling to death of the Burmese Empire, its subsequent subjugation, and eventually the war and chaos that started three-quarters of a century ago and continues to this day. More impressively, it's really well-written without being simplified. I don't normally read narrative history books like this, but I'm often glad when I do, and this was one such case.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kieran

    I liked this book, and it had the desired effect of informing about the history of Burma, going in effectively blind. It is well researched, well explained and the writing is clear and accessible. However, if not for the fact I'm doubtful a better introduction exists, I would be more frustrated by the lack of detail in parts. Sometimes long periods and complicated events are given only a few passing sentences. This applies to historical conflicts and personal anecdotes. I would have loved to hea I liked this book, and it had the desired effect of informing about the history of Burma, going in effectively blind. It is well researched, well explained and the writing is clear and accessible. However, if not for the fact I'm doubtful a better introduction exists, I would be more frustrated by the lack of detail in parts. Sometimes long periods and complicated events are given only a few passing sentences. This applies to historical conflicts and personal anecdotes. I would have loved to hear more about U Thant's UN career, for instance. A longer volume would have given this complicated topic more justice. I also feel that the writing style could be more ambitious, although this is personal preference. This is still nevertheless a great introduction to Burma and the writer does an excellent job of explaining the country's origins and future challenges, but it falls short of being a great book in its own right.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nico Marco

    Fantastic read from start to finish. Burma is so much more than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This book presents a pragmatic historical account as to how and why Burma ended up in its tragic state (although current situation is clearly better now). From the innately war-prone ancient monarchs, the British invasion, the Japanese invasion, the Indian immigration, the complex dynamics of ethnic groups, and to the rise of the (still strong) Military junta. This is a must-read for anyone that has keen intere Fantastic read from start to finish. Burma is so much more than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This book presents a pragmatic historical account as to how and why Burma ended up in its tragic state (although current situation is clearly better now). From the innately war-prone ancient monarchs, the British invasion, the Japanese invasion, the Indian immigration, the complex dynamics of ethnic groups, and to the rise of the (still strong) Military junta. This is a must-read for anyone that has keen interest in Asian history. It is sometimes humorous too, and always told in a narrative that takes a firm hold on the reader - which I find refreshing out of most non-fiction books I have read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Probably the first book about my own country that I read. Personal but at the same times Thant Myint-U tries to make is historically correct - as best he can, I guess because I heard some people saying that some of the facts are not accurate (I was too naive to pay attention to those details when I first read though).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Before I read this book, I knew little to nothing about Burmese history. Although Mr. Thant Myingt-U obviously has a masterful grasp of his country's history and makes an admirable attempt to guide the reader through Burmese history from its mythical origins right up to the tragically futile monk protests in 2007, I still feel as if I know functionally nothing. That may be because there are too many minor details thrown out, especially regarding trifling royals and unimportant battles in unimpor Before I read this book, I knew little to nothing about Burmese history. Although Mr. Thant Myingt-U obviously has a masterful grasp of his country's history and makes an admirable attempt to guide the reader through Burmese history from its mythical origins right up to the tragically futile monk protests in 2007, I still feel as if I know functionally nothing. That may be because there are too many minor details thrown out, especially regarding trifling royals and unimportant battles in unimportant towns. These details detract from what could have been a more fully-fledged story-line. Also bothersome is the strange mixture of overarching history and personal biography. It could have worked but it doesn't. On the plus side, the sections on Arakan, a western region at the crossroads of Islam and Buddhism, and the Burmese theater during WWII are excellent. Three Favorite Passages: 1) "It was also because Burma was almost entirely unknown. To the extent that it was thought about at all, it had the image of an exotic and dreamy backwater, a gentle Buddhist country, lost in time and quietly isolated, hardly the sort of location for a foreign policy crisis. It was an offbeat tourist destination, unspoiled compared with neighboring Thailand, perhaps even a model of an alternative approach to life, unhurried and without the extremes of modern capitalism and communism. Prodemocracy demonstrations in Burma? It was like hearing about a coup in Shangri-La. What was to be done with a place like that?" 2) "Like Sarmarkand or Zanzibar, Mandalay is one of those names that evoke a sense of far-flung exoticism, of a climate different from Europe, outlandish dress, strange smells, and unchanging customs. Most people then are surprised to learn that Mandalay is not very old, that it is in fact quite young, having been built in the same year that Macy's department store first opened its doors to customers in downtown Manhattan." 3) "The Burmese civil war is the longest-running armed conflict in the world and has continued, in one form or another, from independence to the present day. In a way, Burma is a place where the Second World War never really stopped. Ever since the first Japanese bombers hummed overhead and dropped their payloads over downtown Rangoon, the country has never known peace. For a brief period, between August 1945 and independence in January 1948, there were no open hostilities. And since then, there have been times, like today, when fighting is sporadic, small encounters here and there, affecting only isolated areas. But the gun has never been taken away from Burmese politics. And no government has governed the entirety of Burma since 1941. Elections have never been held across the entire country, and no government has been able to conduct a proper census. Few border regions are even today free of rebel control. There has not been a succession of wars; rather the same war, the same rhetoric, and sometimes even the same old rifles have staggered on and on, with only minor changes to the cast and plot and a few new special effects. Some of the very same groups that first took up arms in the 1940s, when Mahatma Gandhi was languishing in a British jail and Joe Louis was heavyweight champion of the world, are still duking it out today. Perhaps a million dead, millions more displaced, an economy in ruins, and robust military machine designed to fight the enemy within have been the main stuff of Burma's postindependence history."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Azimah Othman

    Trudging down the road of lost footsteps again........ a very complex road no doubt but touche to Myint-U for his effort in his attempt to tell us the story of his motherland. Bordered by two mighty empires in the north-east and north-west, impressive array of kingdoms in the east and sea routes of pirates, ancient mariners and foreign naval powers along the south, I can appreciate the violence that have pervaded this country that we have come to know as Myanmar today. This is my first reading o Trudging down the road of lost footsteps again........ a very complex road no doubt but touche to Myint-U for his effort in his attempt to tell us the story of his motherland. Bordered by two mighty empires in the north-east and north-west, impressive array of kingdoms in the east and sea routes of pirates, ancient mariners and foreign naval powers along the south, I can appreciate the violence that have pervaded this country that we have come to know as Myanmar today. This is my first reading of Burmese history. Whilst it was Aung San Suu Kyi who provided the interest, now, barely half the book covered I realise how miniscule she is compared to those who have come to build Ava or even Mandalay or those who have impacted the direction (right or wrong) of Myanmar since then. I laude the author's ability to describe the most sensitive of issues in a soft factual manner....almost bringing me to tears. I was specially intrigued by the summary on Yunnan in South China from it's medieval to the Qing period as there lay some of the reasons for the dìaspora of it's people into SEA.... I now understand much of what I have heard of the treatment meted out by the colonial power. I now understand how classes of people can be put into oblivion. I understand how difficult it is to unite many, many different ethnic and sub-ethnic groups some of which have grown to find trust wanting. With the collapse of their traditional order when Tibaw departed, socialism leaving the country in tatters and decades of isolation, the road to democracy is deemed to take a long time. ........ I realise how lucky we are in Malaysia ............ We should not take peace for granted. Overall it is a very good read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Traces the entire history of Burma from its founding, countless border wars and incursions with its neighbors, through the british colonisation, ww2 and up to post independence. Well written and did not feel draggy at all, although I stopped at post ww2 since modern history I feel is less interesting. A nation with a heritage of conquest to be proud of, thus explaining to a large extent the strong militaristic traditions to this day.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Howard Olsen

    Burma has long been in the news. After the most recent cycle of uprising-crackdown, I looked for a book that could give me some historic and political background for this country that has so often attracted the world’s attention, if not its interest. Incredibly enough, finding such a book is not easy. Most books about Burma are travel guides, or have some sort of George Orwell connection. This book, written by U Thant’s grandson, is probably the best introduction to Burma you can find. However, t Burma has long been in the news. After the most recent cycle of uprising-crackdown, I looked for a book that could give me some historic and political background for this country that has so often attracted the world’s attention, if not its interest. Incredibly enough, finding such a book is not easy. Most books about Burma are travel guides, or have some sort of George Orwell connection. This book, written by U Thant’s grandson, is probably the best introduction to Burma you can find. However, the picture he paints is complex, and ultimately disquieting, The West’s pat certainty that democracy will cure all of Burma’s ills cannot survive a reading of this book. Thant begins with the moment in the 1880’s when British gunboats steamed up the Irawaddy Delta and deposed the last (feckless) king of Burma. At that moment, Burma became a British colony and entered the modern world, whether it wanted to or not. Thant describes this moment in stunning detail, from Randolph Churchill’s ministry, which directed the Burma mission (I refuse to call it the "Mission to Burma"), to the last confused days of the Burmese monarchy. Reading this, one suspects that the memory of Burma’s lost monarchy remains a bitter one. Thant then sets out a relatively brief history of Burma from its earliest days, up to the arrival of the British. The sections of the book dealing with pre-colonial Burma are fascinating. Burma is huge, about the size of Germany, and yet lightly populated. Nonetheless, empires rose and fell within its territory, often expanding into China and Thailand. Burma is also a crazyquilt of ethnic groups (including whole villages of mixed Burmese and Scottish (!) descent. Aye, Laddie! 'Tis troo!), and Thant does a good job describing their histories and places in Burmese history. This section of the book is excellent for conjuring up a lost world. Unfortunately, it is also the shortest. Burma’s colonial experience was relatively short, and ended with the Japanese invasion in WW2. With the British gone, modern Burmese history began. It is here that the major players of Burmese politics come in. This is the longest section of the book, and Thant sometimes gets too detailed, going as far as to reconstruct student debates from the 1930’s. Still, it’s important information if you want to know how Burma got where it is today. Sadly, Burma’s post-WW2 leaders divided along the familiar ideological lines of the 20th century: fascists (including Aung San Suu Kyi’s father) vs. socialists. Those Burmese like Thant’s family, who were western educated and politically liberal, had nowhere to go. Ultimately, post-war Burma descended into near-chaos. A communist insurgency took hold. The Karen tribe, and others, launched a civil war that continues to this day. The national government never found its footing, and key figures were assassinated. The rise of the junta almost seems inevitable. Given the experiences of neighbors like Viet Nam and Cambodia, the junta no doubt feels that it has been the sole guarantor of Burma’s safety. Thant has no sympathy for the military, but he also makes clear that any post-junta government would face the staggering task of uniting a fractious, demoralized nation made poor by decades of international sanctions. It is unclear whether such unification could ever occur wihout some sort of heavy-handed state action. (I should also note that Thant considers the current sanctions regime to be utterly useless and counter-productive, given that they maintain Burma's isolation, exacerbate its poverty, and do little to harm the interests of the government). In the end, Burma's generals could be protected by their country's status as a backwater in international affairs. Burma's tragedy is not interfering with the flow of commece. It is not crossing borders. Burma's army is a menace only to those inside Burma itself. Finally, Burma's problems do not reduce themselves to a simple bumpersticker like Tibet or Darfur. This is a great book, but it's not really a call to action. Instead, it is a reminder that even matters of good vs evil can contain ambiguities that can bring one up short.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bob Schmitz

    My sister and I visited Myanmar this past year and this was one of 2 books in the Durham County Library on Burma. The other was by Aung San Suu Kyi. This is the story of Burma's history written by U Thant's son. It is rather dry and I did not finish it. In 1885 at the encouragement of the business class in England Winston Churchill's dad Lord Randolph decided that Britain needed to take over Burma in order open it's markets to British goods and to make a back door to China for the same purpose. T My sister and I visited Myanmar this past year and this was one of 2 books in the Durham County Library on Burma. The other was by Aung San Suu Kyi. This is the story of Burma's history written by U Thant's son. It is rather dry and I did not finish it. In 1885 at the encouragement of the business class in England Winston Churchill's dad Lord Randolph decided that Britain needed to take over Burma in order open it's markets to British goods and to make a back door to China for the same purpose. The British sent battleships up the Irrawaddy River under General Prendergast and with little resistance deposed King Thibaw. It soon discovered as the Americans did in Iraq that far from being welcomed as the over-thrower of a corrupt despot, the Burmese army joined with bandits for a guerrilla war. And just like the Americans in Iraq the British did culturally very insensitive things. When the Kings white elephant died they dragged it out of the palace grounds. Burmese people looked at this elephant nearly as a deity and were horrified at the British treatment of it. When the new British administrator gave his initial speech to the court officials they all remained standing a tremendous insult in Burmese culture. To a king they would have been prostrate. The author points out like the Americans in Iraq the British had very little idea of what to do after they conquered Burma. They thought it would all be easy. Burma consists of the fertile Irrawaddy River valley with mountains on the northern border with China and on the west along the border or Thailand and in the east the swamp and marshes near Bangladesh. For thousands of years many different armies swept through this area, Chinese Mongolians, Indian and various homegrown varieties. There was trade with China and Persia. Rome spoke of the people in the Irrawaddy valley. By the eighth century what is now Burma had been conquered by a group known as Nanzhao who set up a capital at Pagan. This empire faded by the tenth century. In the 11th century the new leader arose, Aniruddha, who lead campaigns in every direction, even fighting down the Malay Peninsula. By the 12th century Pagan was at the height of its glory and extent. Mongol hordes in the 13th century brought terror destruction through Europe and Asia and Burma was not excepted. The Mongols sent an army to crush Burma. The Burmese forces numbering 60,000 including 2,000 elephants carrying wooden towers with 16 armed men met the Turkish and Mongol horseman. Nasruddin, The Mongol leader, ordered his horseman to dismount, hide in the nearby tree line and direct their fire at the elephants who eventually panicked and fled. The Mongols remounted and slaughtered the Burmese. The Burmese people today look at this history of the remote past as long-standing tradition of Burma, the Burmese and the Buddhist religion. When the people of Mandalay mourned the exile of King Thibaw they felt they were mourning the loss of an institution that stretched back thousands of years. In short the British ruled from 1885 to 1948 while they extracted as much teak, gold, rice as they could while suppressing constant uprisings of the 100 or more tribes/people. They gave up in 1948 and a democracy was in place from '48 until '62. The country was in a constant state of civil war and when "The Generals" took over in 1962 and suppressed the fighting often brutally and many people were pleased. However they were corrupt as could be and took over much of the economy, made non compete pacts with opium and later meth manufactures in the remote regions and closed the country off to the outside world. Shades of North Korea here. Eventually, various democratic uprising the generals realized they could not run the country and allowed elections in 2015 and now power share with democratically elected government.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bruno Lucas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is elicited by questions: "why has Burma's military dictatorship proved so enduring, and what can possibly bring back greater political freedom and democracy? How should we think about the continuing war between Rangoon and ethnic minority-based insurgencies? Why has Burma, so rich in natural resources and seemingly once so well ahead of its Asian neighbors, fallen so behind? More to the point, what is to be done?". The author tries to answers these by looking at history. He makes the This book is elicited by questions: "why has Burma's military dictatorship proved so enduring, and what can possibly bring back greater political freedom and democracy? How should we think about the continuing war between Rangoon and ethnic minority-based insurgencies? Why has Burma, so rich in natural resources and seemingly once so well ahead of its Asian neighbors, fallen so behind? More to the point, what is to be done?". The author tries to answers these by looking at history. He makes the point Burmese issues are debated with a short-term point of view. Ignorance about what happened in the past and its influence on Burmese society makes it impossible to reach a solution. The debate that comes out is too ahistorical, and lacks the nuance needed to understand a country so large and complex as Burma. With that in mind, the author attempts to tell the story of his land, from thousands of years ago until today. This is done beautifully. as it focuses on the formation of the Burmese collective conscience, the book focuses mostly on the period until the 1989 student protests, and particularly on the XIXth century, when the court of Ava's attempts to expand its empire and gain recognition abroad were stopped by the empire-making ambitions and economic interests of the British. The challenge in defining what is Burma is that it is a patchwork of cultures and ethnicities. First taken over by Indian princes, it was then overtaken by the Myanma, who originated in the Nanzhao Empire of Modern Southern China. Indian and Muslims established themselves centuries before European adventurers - looking for fortune in exotic lands - came over. The two interesting factors permeating Burmese history that serve as somehow unifying factors. The first is Buddhism: "For many Burmese this history of the remote past [...] offers up a sense of deep-rooted tradition and of a long-lasting association among Burma, the Burmese and the Buddhist religion". Obviously, this excludes all the other religions present in the country, and is at the heart of the identity problems the country appears to encounter. The other is a proud militaristic history, embedded in not only the memories of conquests in the region but also the pacification of internal strifes and rebellions. This is clearer in the memory around the memory of King Bayinnaung, the XVIth century general-turned-king who took over several neighbouring kingoms, including Siam. "For many Burmese today the stories of Bayinnaung and his contemporaries are the stories of a nation naturally inclined to fracture but which through heroic action can be welded together and made whole, of a country that will fall apart without the strong lead of a soldier-king". When the English deposed Thibaw, they ended this heritage, flawed as it was and took away one of the stabilizing elements in the minds of the Burmese. Alongside the humiliation of defeat, was the loss of the unifying factor offered by the "soldier-king". The book's predicament is that many Burmese and outsiders see the country as a monolistically buddhist society who just needs a powerful ruler to achieve unity. A look at the history shows Burma is more complex than that, and that the only rulers with enough legitimacy to claim the status of "soldier-kings" were deposed and stripped out of their authority. A very interesting perspective, from a beautifuly written book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    H. P.

    The River of Lost Footsteps is nothing if not ambitious. Thant Myint-U tries to tell essentially the entire recorded history of Burma while also telling the history of his prominent Burmese family. Unfortunately, Thant bit off more than he could chew. Any good history book doesn’t limit itself to a strictly chronological narrative, but The River of Lost Footsteps jumps around both far too much and with little apparent rhyme or reason. This is apparent from the start. Thant starts with a preface r The River of Lost Footsteps is nothing if not ambitious. Thant Myint-U tries to tell essentially the entire recorded history of Burma while also telling the history of his prominent Burmese family. Unfortunately, Thant bit off more than he could chew. Any good history book doesn’t limit itself to a strictly chronological narrative, but The River of Lost Footsteps jumps around both far too much and with little apparent rhyme or reason. This is apparent from the start. Thant starts with a preface reminiscing about his involvement with rebels immediately after the 1988 unrest. From there he jumps backward to Great Britain’s conquest of Burma in the late 19th century, before jumping forward to 1988 unrest (slightly before timeframe of preface). He then jumps backward to the dawn of Burmese history. He gets better from there, but his leaps in time are never well done, more often leading to more confusion than clarification. Thant tends to give little context and expects a certain amount of contextual historical knowledge by the reader. Nor does Thant’s narrative doesn’t have the easy flow of the best history writers. The River of Lost Footsteps also lacks a readily apparent theme to tie the stories told therein together. Thant frequently hints at the more interesting or salacious events, but doesn’t give enough to do more than pique the reader’s interest. The River of Lost Footsteps is a history of Burma interspersed with the personal and familial history of the author. The author’s maternal grandfather was the secretary-general of the UN for many years. This is a pretty small part of the book, however. The River of Lost Footsteps single greatest failing, however, is strange omission of the most important events in modern Burmese history. The 1988 uprising and coup are only mentioned in reference after the preface. The name change to ‘Myanmar’ is only mentioned in passing. Thant even gets through the Afterword without using the word ‘cyclone.’ All that being said, Thant does cover a ton of information about a country most of the world has only a vague sense of. The portions covering Burma’s interactions with the British Empire and U Nu’s brief tenure as prime minister of a free Burma are particularly good.

  15. 4 out of 5

    John

    There are two ways to review this: as a book about history, or as a history book. As a book about Myanmar's history, it's a terrific introduction to the country, from the early kingdoms to the present day (or the book's present day anyway, which is 2006 -- so the recent, dramatic democratic changes are not included). Thant Myint-U ably mixes a scholarly (but not dry) recounting of that history with his own family stories (his grandfather was UN Secretary General U Thant, a founding father of mod There are two ways to review this: as a book about history, or as a history book. As a book about Myanmar's history, it's a terrific introduction to the country, from the early kingdoms to the present day (or the book's present day anyway, which is 2006 -- so the recent, dramatic democratic changes are not included). Thant Myint-U ably mixes a scholarly (but not dry) recounting of that history with his own family stories (his grandfather was UN Secretary General U Thant, a founding father of modern Myanmar and the most internationally renowned Burman until Aung San Suu Kyi rose to prominence), and the overall result is a lively, interesting,and extremely educational read. My 4-star rating reflects that assessment. Unfortunately -- be warned -- as a history book (instead of a book about history), it deserves only 1 star. There's no index, no timelines, only one semi-useful map, and photos that don't add much of anything to the work. Very frustrating. If he ever puts out a second edition -- one that discusses transition to democracy -- I hope he or his publishers correct these oversights

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Thorough and fascinating (but occasionally slow) history of Burma, which is long and complicated. Twelve years old now, it seems remiss in not mentioning the Rohingya, but there is a lot about the many different people who ended up in Burma, and the nativism that kicked many of them out, where you can understand how the situation comes about. One interesting side note: I had read in Charles Mann's 1493 about samurai guarding silver shipments in Mexico. In this book I learned that many of the ronin Thorough and fascinating (but occasionally slow) history of Burma, which is long and complicated. Twelve years old now, it seems remiss in not mentioning the Rohingya, but there is a lot about the many different people who ended up in Burma, and the nativism that kicked many of them out, where you can understand how the situation comes about. One interesting side note: I had read in Charles Mann's 1493 about samurai guarding silver shipments in Mexico. In this book I learned that many of the ronin were Christian, which got them expelled from Japan and off into the wider world. They made their way into Burma too, but that is less surprising as you read more about what a crossroads of the world it has been. Yes, there is newer information missing from the book, but that does not make it outdated.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Thuzar

    Although this book explained the detailed history of Myanmar(Burma), the most entries were not written in chronological orders. After adding Burmese names and Geographical locations, it maybe a bit confusing to someone who is new to Myanmar’s history. Someone recommended me the author’s website and his perfect creation of Myanmar timeline. Here is the link: https://lostfootsteps.org/en/history/... Reading the book together with this timeline helps the better understanding of the book. The last two Although this book explained the detailed history of Myanmar(Burma), the most entries were not written in chronological orders. After adding Burmese names and Geographical locations, it maybe a bit confusing to someone who is new to Myanmar’s history. Someone recommended me the author’s website and his perfect creation of Myanmar timeline. Here is the link: https://lostfootsteps.org/en/history/... Reading the book together with this timeline helps the better understanding of the book. The last two chapters of the book really reflect the writer’s critical analysis of the current issues of Myanmar and I suggest not to miss that two chapters even if you couldn’t read the whole book for whatever reason.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Babak Fakhamzadeh

    A somewhat rambling account of Burmese history which gets somewhat more coherent and readable starting from the events of the disbanding of the Burmese monarchy in the late 1880s. Published in 2007, before the recent thawing in Burmese politics. The author a few mistakes when describing some aspects of the Chinese, Mongol and Indian influencers on Burmese history and, overall, is unable to put down a coherent narrative; some aspects are explained in too much detail, for others all relevant detail A somewhat rambling account of Burmese history which gets somewhat more coherent and readable starting from the events of the disbanding of the Burmese monarchy in the late 1880s. Published in 2007, before the recent thawing in Burmese politics. The author a few mistakes when describing some aspects of the Chinese, Mongol and Indian influencers on Burmese history and, overall, is unable to put down a coherent narrative; some aspects are explained in too much detail, for others all relevant detail is missing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anand Gopal

    This is the sort of perspective you'd expect from an author who is U Thant's grandson. Social history it's not-- you won't find much here about the politics of the civil war or of the various independence movements, and the author takes a very top-down perspective in general. Still, it's well-written and one of the better picks from a slim selection of Burmese histories. Covers the ancient period up to the 2007 protests. This is the sort of perspective you'd expect from an author who is U Thant's grandson. Social history it's not-- you won't find much here about the politics of the civil war or of the various independence movements, and the author takes a very top-down perspective in general. Still, it's well-written and one of the better picks from a slim selection of Burmese histories. Covers the ancient period up to the 2007 protests.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Arman

    Focus is on giving a historical perspective to the issues plaguing the country rather than giving a chronological narrative of the history. More focused on the formative years rather than the newer developments.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ahsan Sajid

    Thant Myint-U’s “The River of Lost Footsteps” is the most comprehensive start to the history of Myanmar, and the history of South Asia in general. It is told with a firm yet entertaining, and often humourous, voice not very often found in a non-fiction history book. This is a narrative history – Myint-U’s grandfather on his mother’s side, once a schoolteacher at a small Burmese town, became the first non-Scandinavian UN Secretary General. His father’s side of the family had served as courtiers at Thant Myint-U’s “The River of Lost Footsteps” is the most comprehensive start to the history of Myanmar, and the history of South Asia in general. It is told with a firm yet entertaining, and often humourous, voice not very often found in a non-fiction history book. This is a narrative history – Myint-U’s grandfather on his mother’s side, once a schoolteacher at a small Burmese town, became the first non-Scandinavian UN Secretary General. His father’s side of the family had served as courtiers at the Court of Ava for two hundred years. Myint-U himself has spent a lifetime researching Burmese history, obviously enjoying the access his unique connection to his subject provides him. As far as a narrative history goes, this is the author to read. You’ll find the author’s personal history inimitably interwoven with the history of his country. I previously enjoyed Myint-U’s Making of Modern Burma, which had a focus on the Court of Ava and the Anglo-Burmese wars – this book is much wider in scope, and gives you a bird’s eye glimpse of over a thousand years of history. For about two decades, Myanmar has been in the public eye on and off for predictable reasons. But the country’s history does not start at Aung San Suu Kyi; it doesn’t start at Ne Win’s 1962 military coup, the devastation of the Second World War and Japanese occupation, or the three Anglo-Burmese Wars of the nineteenth century. This book will help you know and understand a much more complex Myanmar – one where the demands of the ethnic Burmese, the Shans, Chins, Mons, Karens are not one; why the country’s civil war is the longest running in the world; and why ‘well-intentioned’ international sanctions are perhaps not the best strategy against a regime that depends on isolationist policies for its power. If you find this kind of history interesting, you’re going to breeze through this book, and you’ll be richer for it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex Zakharov

    Got the book before a trip to Myanmar, hoping for something better than a travel guide and with a wider historical lens than Orwell’s “Burmese Stories”, and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. In contrast to most books on Burma which fixate on last 60 years and the role of Aung San Suu the “River of Lost Footsteps” provides a broad historical sweep from 200AD to modern day and paints an abject lesson in failed empire building. Burma’s history is often overshadowed by its neighbors - China Got the book before a trip to Myanmar, hoping for something better than a travel guide and with a wider historical lens than Orwell’s “Burmese Stories”, and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. In contrast to most books on Burma which fixate on last 60 years and the role of Aung San Suu the “River of Lost Footsteps” provides a broad historical sweep from 200AD to modern day and paints an abject lesson in failed empire building. Burma’s history is often overshadowed by its neighbors - China on the east and India on the west. But back in 9-12th centuries Burma was a strong militarily aggressive powerhouse expanding and successfully conquering states all around itself until Mongol’s invasion put a kybosh on that enterprise. Having recovered from Mongols and with 14th century on the expansion continued with different degrees of success. As late as 18th century Burmese managed to stop and reverse massive Chinese invasion – considered by many the worst (and only) military fiasco of Qing’s dynasty and that’s saying something. Eventually of course Burmese had to succumb to the British, industrial revolution is a bitch. From that perspective modern history of Burma is a rather natural extension of its past. People seem surprised by the fact that military junta has been brutally running the country from late 50s to 2011, but the emergence of that military dictatorship seems perfectly natural - once Burma got its independence from Britain (1948) – every peripheral ethnically different mini state within Burma re-ignited their effort to break away, just like they were doing intermittently throughout the last thousand years, and so after a decade long flirt with democracy military took over. The truth is - unlike China which did manage to fully and strongly unify back in the day or India who practiced a somewhat loose integration of its states till the modern times, Burma never fully succeeded in unifying or subsuming the states they conquered, and late 20th century history is a testament to a failed imperial ambitions hundreds years old. Today’s situation in Myanmar is fascinating – you got Christians running drug trade in the far north and south, Shan Buddhists vying for independence in the east (with soft encouragement by the Chinese), and Muslims-Buddhist tensions are flaming up in the West (near Bangladesh border). All peripheral states talk of independence and democracy (in the same breath ironically), but to me plain old Malthusian pressures seem to be a huge factor as well. It is nicely demonstrated by recent peace agreement – 15 states originally signed up, but only half of them signed the agreement and the ones that signed didn’t have too many resources worth fighting for. The ones that didn’t are actively engaged in natural resource trade (e.g. jade, timber, rubies, gas) so I suspect that failure to sign with central gov’t has less to do with democratic aspirations and more to do with splitting resource revenue. That said last 50 years of oppression by the military is undoubtedly a massive factor, perhaps a deciding one. Allegedly there are gulag-style labor camps in many of the peripheral states so the grievances by non-Burmese ethnic groups are genuine, regardless of resources. Anyway, read the book and visit the country, they got wide spread inexpensive internet access 18 months ago after being totally isolated for 50+ years, I imagine it is like having a bottle of cask-strength scotch as your first drink. Join the party!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    For most in America, Myanmar is an unconsidered place. Stuffed between Thailand and the Indian subcontinent, these days it is most known for its violent internal conflicts and for the lost hope of democracy championed by Aung San Suu Kyi. The country has an astonishing history. The geography is a puzzle of marshes, plains, valleys, and mountains. In places, ethnic groups from mutually unintelligible language groups live in near isolation. In the main Irrawaddy delta, the Burmese people dominate, For most in America, Myanmar is an unconsidered place. Stuffed between Thailand and the Indian subcontinent, these days it is most known for its violent internal conflicts and for the lost hope of democracy championed by Aung San Suu Kyi. The country has an astonishing history. The geography is a puzzle of marshes, plains, valleys, and mountains. In places, ethnic groups from mutually unintelligible language groups live in near isolation. In the main Irrawaddy delta, the Burmese people dominate, usually peacefully, but the history is punctuated with violence. The British empire found Burma painful to acquire; in today's dollars it probably spent over 10 billion dollars on the project -- as much as it cost to conquer the whole Indian subcontinent. Golf remains popular in Burma, a lingering influence of the many Scottish troops that once lived there. Although World War II is usually imagined as a war between Japan and America, the conflict has an entirely different cast when viewed from the lens of the Burmese struggle for independence from Britain. In this book, historian Thant Myint-U, the grandson of Aung San and the son of Aung San Suu Kyi, not only brings this country's important history to life, but draws the connections between the history of southeast Asia, the British Empire, the Raj, and America's war in Vietnam.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Breanna Randall

    Thant Myint-U is a good writer, and the history he puts down here is fascinating. As someone who lives in modern day Burma, I was disappointed by some of the book. He does not fully describe/explain the 1988 uprising, he only devotes two sentences to the demonetization of the Myanmar currency, and he does not take any time to explain the why and how of the ways the education system was broken, and the ways this broken education system has continued to affect the nation for generations. These are Thant Myint-U is a good writer, and the history he puts down here is fascinating. As someone who lives in modern day Burma, I was disappointed by some of the book. He does not fully describe/explain the 1988 uprising, he only devotes two sentences to the demonetization of the Myanmar currency, and he does not take any time to explain the why and how of the ways the education system was broken, and the ways this broken education system has continued to affect the nation for generations. These are huge issues that ought to be addressed, and are not given sufficient attention. While I respect his scholarship and the effort it must have taken to write such a book, it is clear that he writes with some bias against the experiences of the minority groups of Myanmar. I will concede that he does acknowledge some of their suffering and oppression, but he tends to exoticize it, and continously refers to the minority groups as "rebels." The book is informative in that it is a classic example of the fact that those with power, be it social or military, are often the ones who get to write the history that is shared with the world. I'd recommend this read to people who have already lived in and learned about Myanmar, and to anyone outside of Myanmar wanting to learn more, I'd encourage taking it in with a grain of salt.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Excellent, highly readable and enjoyable overview of the country formerly known as Burma. My number #1 recommendation when a friend asks for an introductory book on Myanmar. One correction: The correct date for the Portuguese travel writer Duarte Barbosa is the 1500s, not the 1600s. (He was the brother-in-law of Ferdinand Magellan and died in the Philippines on May 1, 1521--one month after Magellan.) An additional recommendation: Not a book, but an excellent DVD I've just watched that I want to r Excellent, highly readable and enjoyable overview of the country formerly known as Burma. My number #1 recommendation when a friend asks for an introductory book on Myanmar. One correction: The correct date for the Portuguese travel writer Duarte Barbosa is the 1500s, not the 1600s. (He was the brother-in-law of Ferdinand Magellan and died in the Philippines on May 1, 1521--one month after Magellan.) An additional recommendation: Not a book, but an excellent DVD I've just watched that I want to recommend to anyone interested in the history of Burma during WW2: The film is by Kon Ichikawa, and is called The Burmese Harp. The story of an imperial Japanese Army regiment that surrenders to British forces in Burma at the close of WW2, it follows the decision one of its members makes in disguising himself as a Buddhist monk and remaining behind. Made in 1956 and recently restored in high-def digital transfer, it "remains one of Japanese cinema's most overwhelming antiwar statements, both tender and brutal in its grappling with Japan's wartime legacy." It's in Japanese and Burmese with English subtitles. If you have a chance to find it in a DVD library or on-line, don't miss it. It is a movie you will not forget.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Thant Myint-U, the grandson of U-Thant, who headed the United Nations for many years, grew up speaking both Burmese and English. This fluency is reflected in his writing. THE RIVER OF LOST FOOTSTEPS eloquently presents his family history, the history of Burma, and the story of recent political shifts and turmoil. He is able to present history as dramatic stories made up of vivid scenes. In the year 2000, when Burma was still under the thumb of the military dictatorship, I spent some time there. Thant Myint-U, the grandson of U-Thant, who headed the United Nations for many years, grew up speaking both Burmese and English. This fluency is reflected in his writing. THE RIVER OF LOST FOOTSTEPS eloquently presents his family history, the history of Burma, and the story of recent political shifts and turmoil. He is able to present history as dramatic stories made up of vivid scenes. In the year 2000, when Burma was still under the thumb of the military dictatorship, I spent some time there. It was a beautiful country, the people were lovely and charming, reflecting the Buddhism in which they were raised, and the historical and archeological sites that I visited were beautiful and fascinating, but the people were afraid to speak openly about any subject even touching on politics . Supposedly, the situation has eased now. I hope so. This book helped me to understand the full impact of Burma's history on the present. It's brilliantly written and full of information that the West needs to know and understand.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lupa

    I bought this book after a fascinating trip to Myanmar. A country captivating by its history and the enormous cultural diversity. My first expectation when reading the book (as in the sub-title A Personal History of Burma) was to have a Myanmar writer's point of view of the historical and cultural facts of the country and the daily life of the people. little to be desired because although it was very well researched and documented in relation to the history, there was not much contribution on his I bought this book after a fascinating trip to Myanmar. A country captivating by its history and the enormous cultural diversity. My first expectation when reading the book (as in the sub-title A Personal History of Burma) was to have a Myanmar writer's point of view of the historical and cultural facts of the country and the daily life of the people. little to be desired because although it was very well researched and documented in relation to the history, there was not much contribution on his personal experience, besides the experience of having been the son of U Thant. Moreover, the book has an easy and enjoyable reading with details of interesting and picturesque characters who were part of the history of the country as: King Mindon, King Thinbaw, Prime Minister U Nu, U Thant and General Ne Win. These characters helped me to understand the complexity of the Myanmar society and understand the present history of the country. I recommend reading.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leeann Nolan

    Myint-U traces Myanmar’s history in an effort to understand and perhaps find solutions to the current complex political situation in the nation. It was published in 2007, before the international condemnation of the genocide of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. The background to this conflict is explained, in part, by the fact that that this part of Myanmar had once been a separate kingdom (Arakan), that had been taken over by the Burmese Kingdom of Ava. The book provides many historical insights i Myint-U traces Myanmar’s history in an effort to understand and perhaps find solutions to the current complex political situation in the nation. It was published in 2007, before the international condemnation of the genocide of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. The background to this conflict is explained, in part, by the fact that that this part of Myanmar had once been a separate kingdom (Arakan), that had been taken over by the Burmese Kingdom of Ava. The book provides many historical insights into this complicated, and wildly diverse country. While understanding history may not solve the political issues it faces, it certainly develops understanding and empathy towards the nation, and the many different ethnicities that exist within its boundaries. This book is a love letter to Burma, and a fervent plea that the country finds a path to lasting peace.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Clearly need to have some interest in Myanmar to read this, but if you do you'll be richly rewarded. The more distant history through much of the beginning can be a little dry, yet he does a good job of pointing out how this history influenced modern day Myanmar. The pace picks up a bit from WWII on. If you're going to read a book about the country, I think this is a great place to start. The author's connection to the country, grandson of the Secretary General of the UN, and current advisor to Clearly need to have some interest in Myanmar to read this, but if you do you'll be richly rewarded. The more distant history through much of the beginning can be a little dry, yet he does a good job of pointing out how this history influenced modern day Myanmar. The pace picks up a bit from WWII on. If you're going to read a book about the country, I think this is a great place to start. The author's connection to the country, grandson of the Secretary General of the UN, and current advisor to the President (although not at the time of writing), certainly bias his perspective, one that may be different if told through the lens of a Chin or Shan leader, but...........that's how history works. Enjoy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nitya

    Very well-written in a clear, lucid style. Simple prose. Heartfelt book and you know the author loves, understands and feels for his country. Though I do wish the blueprint he proposed to put Burma back on the map had more clarity. What he stated was more a wishlist. It was also a little confusing trying to get a handle on the various parties involved in teh civil war, so I gave up a bit at that point. But, that was more to do with the complex, internecine nature of the conflict than a reflectio Very well-written in a clear, lucid style. Simple prose. Heartfelt book and you know the author loves, understands and feels for his country. Though I do wish the blueprint he proposed to put Burma back on the map had more clarity. What he stated was more a wishlist. It was also a little confusing trying to get a handle on the various parties involved in teh civil war, so I gave up a bit at that point. But, that was more to do with the complex, internecine nature of the conflict than a reflection of the author's presentation. An excellent read.

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