Burma Becomes An Independent Nation

On January 4, 1948, the British colony of Burma, now Myanmar, became an independent nation after more than sixty years of colonial rule.

England had established control of the country in 1885, designating Burma a province of India. Ten years later, the U.S.-based World's Transportation Commission, organized and led by American railroad publicist Joseph Gladding Pangborn toured the country. The Commission sought to gather information about transportation systems for the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago. The Commission included photographer William Henry Jackson, who visited Burma in the course of a two-year journey (1884-96) through North Africa, Asia, Australia, and Oceania.

Myanmar is located on the eastern coasts of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea in Southeast Asia. Thailand (formerly Siam), Laos, China, and India border Myanmar. Much of the terrain is mountainous and heavily forested. Myanmar's rich natural resources include silver, copper, lead, zinc, tungsten, and tin. Tropical rain forests support a wide variety of animal life, including tigers and elephants.

After the First Burmese War, the Ava kingdom ceded the provinces of Manipur, Tenassarim, and Arakan to the British. Rangoon and southern Burma were incorporated into British India in 1853. All of Burma came directly or indirectly under British India in 1886 after the Third Burmese War and the fall of Mandalay Burma was administered as a province of British India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony. The country became independent from the United Kingdom on 4 January 1948, as the "Union of Burma". It became the "Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma" on 4 January 1974, before reverting to the "Union of Burma" on 23 September 1988. On 18 June 1989, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) adopted the name "Union of Myanmar" for English transliteration. This controversial name change in English, while accepted in the UN and in many countries, is not recognised by opposition groups and by nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States.