Burma Boom

P1010721As Burma or Myanmar opens up to the outside world, exciting things are happening in the field of Burmese legal studies. (Not everyone may consider Burma to be part of South Asia, but as a dutiful historian of colonial South Asia, I include it–British Burma was after all part of British India administratively.)

Oxford’s Law Faculty has forged a close relationship with the University of Yangon’s Dept. of Law, for instance, and there are similar American initiatives.

There is also a surge of new scholarship. For decades, lawyer Andrew Huxley wrote on Buddhist law in colonial and post-colonial periods. More recently, though, historians like Aung-Thwin Maitrii and Jonathan Saha have given us rich socio-legal book-length histories of Burma. You can take a look here and here. My book also looks at Parsi legal history in colonial Burma. An exciting recent volume on Buddhism and Law edited by Rebecca Redwood French and Mark A. Nathan includes a chapter on Burmese legal history by Christian Lammerts, who has also published on Burmese legal history elsewhere. Other work like a book chapter here by Aung-Thwin Maitrii joins the larger pan-Asian discussion on discourses of emergency in colonial and postcolonial polities. And now, a 2014 edited volume by Melissa Crouch and Tim Lindsey includes scholarship on the state of affairs in Burma since 2011, including a chapter by Andrew Harding on rule-of-law projects in Burma. Nick Cheesman also has a chapter on colonial Burmese law reports in the same volume, and his monograph on the rule of law in Myanmar came out last month.

Less academically, the Village Histories Project has extensive biographical profiles on Burmese figures in legal history. And, for those of you working on the intersection between legal history and spatiality, there are projects documenting Burma’s colonial city and architectural history like this.