Anglo-Burmese War, Second (1852–1853)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Burma (Myanmar) vs. Great
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): South Burma
DECLARATION: No formal declaration
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Britain claimed to be
protecting its merchants from Burmese extortion. More
likely, it sought an overland route from India to Singapore.
Burma began by responding to British provocations and
ended by fighting for its autonomy.
OUTCOME: The Burmese king, Pagan Min, was ousted
by his half brother Mindon Min; Britain occupied lower
Burma, and the British East India Company announced
South Burma’s annexation to the empire.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
British and Indian regulars, 8,100; Burma, unknown
CASUALTIES: Britain, 377; Burma, unknown
After some 25 years of peace between British-held India
and Burma (see ANGLO-BURMESE WAR, FIRST), the British
colonial government in India sent the British navy to Rangoon
to investigate complaints from British merchants
that the Burmese were practicing extortion. Behind the
complaints lay a darker subtext, the merchants’ desire—
and Britain’s—to secure an all-land route between the
British colonies in India and Singapore. It hardly came as a
surprise when the news reached London that the navy had
seized a ship belonging to the Burmese king, Pagan Min
(d. 1880), nor were the imperialists much chagrined when
the seizure provoked Burma’s angry sovereign to launch
another war in 1852.
In response a British amphibious expedition of 8,100
under General Sir H. T. Godwin seized Rangoon on April
12, 1852, and the Burmese army retreated to the north. In
May the British took Martaban at the mouth of the Salween
River, then Bassein in the Irrawaddy delta, and by July they
controlled all the ports of lower Burma. Stopping until
October for the monsoon season, the British then began a
march northward on the capital, Amarapura, near modernday
Mandalay, slowly but surely occupying the central teak
forests along the way for the British East India Company.
After a sharp engagement at Shwe-maw-daw Pagoda, Godwin
took Prome on October 9. On December 10, 1852, the
East India Company announced in the name of Great
Britain the annexation of south Burma. Meanwhile, a revolt
in Amarapura led to the ouster of King Pagan Min by his
half brother Mindon Min (1814–78). In 1853 the new king
asked the British to leave, but they refused. The British, on
the other hand, were hesitant to extend their forces farther
northward. The war had reached an impasse, and both sides
simply quit fighting. The British occupied all of lower
Burma with Mindon Min’s tacit approval, but no formal
peace treaty was signed, and the Burmese court did not officially
recognize the British colonial government in Pegu.
See also ANGLO-BURMESE WAR, THIRD.
Further reading: George Ludgate Bruce, Burma Wars,
1824–1886 (London: Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1973).