(BRITISH IMPERIALISM and ASIA, to 1900 – continued)

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BRITISH IMPERIALISM and ASIA, to 1900 (3 of 9)

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East to Ceylon and Burma

On the Malay Peninsula in 1771 the Sultan of Kedah was desperate for help against his enemies and offered the British the little island of Penang in exchange for help in defending his territory. In 1795, the year that the Netherlands were annexed by France, the British took control of what had been Dutch controlled territory called Malacca (Melaka), on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. And in 1802, in accordance with the Treaty of Amiens between Britain and France, the British moved into Ceylon, where the Dutch had been since the 1660s – Ceylon becoming a British Crown Colony.

In 1818 the Netherlands were independent again and the Dutch back in Southeast Asia, and an East India Company employee, Stamford Raffles, argued that Singapore island, on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, was a good place to create another port for the sake of ending Dutch domination around the Malay Peninsula and Java. The island was 25 by 15 miles (40 km by 24 km) with a scattered population of about 1,000. (At the end of the twentieth century its population would be more than four million.) After negotiations with rulers at the south end of the peninsula, the company founded their settlement.

The British, meanwhile, were having problems with the Burmese. Burmese rulers had been slow in agreeing to meet with British envoys, and, in 1785, Burma expanded territorially into Manipur, massacring, according to the British, half the population. In 1819 Burma expanded into the Ahom kingdom in Assam, again massacring, and sending refugees into British dominated areas. The Burmese demanded extradition of the refugees and spoke of their intention to conquer Calcutta. In 1824, the Burmese pushed farther west, and the British declared war.

The British and their Indian soldiers expelled the Burmese from Assam, and British ships attacked Rangoon, which a British-Indian force captured in May, 1824. In April 1825, they captured Prome, 150 miles upriver from Rangoon. Then, south of Ava, the British-Indian force killed the Burmese general Bandula and routed his armies. In February 1826, the Burmese made peace with the British – Treaty of Yandabo – agreeing to pay war indemnity that was about one-fifteenth what Britain spent on the war. The treaty gave to the British the right to dominate the coasts along Arakan and behind Tenasserim Island, and it recognized Manipur as an independent state. And toward the end of that year, the Burmese, at Ava, agreed to a commercial treaty with the British.


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