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Background photo courtesy of Wasitthee Chaiyakan

Burma/Myanmar History

My formal title at SOAS is Professor of Asian and Military History and I work primarily on Asia with comparative work on West Africa, mainly on Ghana. Within Asia, I am best known for my work on Myanmar. I wrote A History of Modern Burma for Cambridge University Press (published in 2009) that was named a Choice book for that year. The title of this book derives from its inclusion in CUP's modern histories series and not from Cady's work of over a half century ago. It provides an overview of Burma's twentieth century and a bit more. Coming out as it did on the verge of the 2010 elections, its last chapter and conclusion capture a moment of change when reform and uncertainty were clearly in the air. Many of the observations made still hold true today, despite the surprising pace, if shallowness of many of the reforms put into place.


In addition to this general history, I have written a number of articles and chapters which have been directed mainly at a research audience, including two chapters on the Cold War in Myanmar. The latter explore the ways in which the U Nu regime used texts to present an imaginary which allowed the government to successfully wade through the political minefield that the Cold War laid out for newly independent countries of the period.


My work on more recent decades of Myanmar's history resulted in monographs for thinktanks, reports, debriefings of ambassadorial staff, and engagement with a number of the core issues facing post-2010 Myanmar today. These issues have grown unfortunately since the Aung San Suu Kyi government has taken power. To the disappointment of many who had supported the NLD's push for democratic reforms, Aung San Suu Kyi's stand on principles has moved very closely (or was perhaps never very far to begin with) from that of the military junta and the government of Thein Sein (2011-2016) she succeeded. The genocide against the Rohingya, for example, continues unabated.


History of Modern Burma