Yangon (1850-1860)/ Effect of Colonialism has on Rangoon’s Economy
After the 1852 war, Rangoon Harbour became important for trading activities because it offered a great waterway to the Ayeyarwady delta, which was a large hinterland for Rangoon (Ware, 2016). The pace of economic development under the colonial rule was spectacular and it has changed Burma significantly in terms of drawing the country more tightly to the international economic system through the development of efficient steamship transportation, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the construction of railroads reaching Mandalay and Myitkyina within the next decade.
The British rule has completely changed Rangoon’s economy by introducing the mechanism of supply and demand into its economic system. “Under the monarchy, the economy of Myanmar was under a redistribution concept that was embedded in the local society, religion, and politics. Prices of the most important commodities were set by the state” Pearn (1939, p.200). Burma’s economy eventually became part of the vast export-oriented enterprise of western colonialism under the colonial influence and the traditional Burmese economic system slowly collapsed.
The opening of the Suez Canal few years after the war created a high international demand for Burma’s rice than what had previously existed. Within a number of decades the Irrawaddy delta became covered with rice fields and the area of productive rice fields in Lower Burma rose nearly 160 times between the mid-19th and late- 19thcentury (Ware, 2016).
To encourage trading activities, the British expanded communications, built roads and railroads, and developed ports, as well as riverine transport yet the Irrawaddy flotilla company was a prime example. The British developed a sophisticated and much renowned Burma forest service said to be the best in the world, to protect this valuable resources. Furthermore, Burma had mineral wealth. The traditional oil wells of central Burma, formerly under royal monopoly, were modernised and Burma became a modest oil exporter within a few decades.
To conclude, by far the most important economic innovation was the development of the Irrawwaddy delta, as it became the word’s premier rice-growing region. Together with building roads and railroads, utilizing the natural mine wealth also contributed to the prosperous wealth in colonial Rangoon.
Pearn, Bertie Reginald. History of Rangoon. (Rangoon: American Baptist Mission Press, 1939)
Ware, Anthony. Religion and Urbanism in Origin of Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar/Burma: An urban history of religious space, social integration and marginalization in colonial Rangoon after 1852. In Religion and Urbanism: Reconceptualising sustainable cities for South Asia. (Oxon: Routledge, 2016).