The City and the Country
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Interpreting both the ‘end of traditional Burma’ and the significance of Buddhism was done against the backdrop of rapid and decisive social transformations. Nothing embodied these changes as much as the development of Rangoon as a major imperial port city. Raymond Williams’s The City and the Country is admittedly an unlikely organizing inspiration for a study in imperial cultural history, but the division on which his classic work is predicated is indicative of key aspects of the Burmascape.1 Already in The Burman, which was written prior to the unification of the country, Scott deployed Rangoon as a signifier for modernization, commercial development and colonial rule. Yet, this chapter will point to a different trend: namely, that despite the fact that the Burmaphiles, and those who looked askance at much that they found there, all assumed that this backwater province of the Indian empire benefitted from these realities, they were much more interested in the rural and natural aspects of Burma. That is, many sought to represent the country itself as the ‘true Burma’ even though their writings illustrated that the land was as difficult to traverse as it was diverse. At the same time, their narrative accounts often had the unintended effect of proclaiming the power of British rule over such a challenging and exotic land. In order to pursue these themes in greater depth, this chapter will focus upon some of the ways in which British authors regarded Rangoon and other cities.
KeywordsIndian Ocean Commercial Development British Rule South Asian Population British Empire
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