The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism,
and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century
Juggernaut and W.W. Norton 2019, Atlantic Books 2020
Precariously positioned between China and India, Burma’s population has suffered dictatorship, natural disaster, and the dark legacies of colonial rule. But when decades of military dictatorship finally ended and internationally beloved Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi emerged from long years of house arrest, hopes soared. World leaders such as Barack Obama ushered in waves of international support. Progress seemed inevitable.
As historian, former diplomat, and presidential advisor, Thant Myint-U saw the cracks forming. In this insider’s diagnosis of a country at a breaking point, he dissects how a singularly predatory economic system, fast-rising inequality, disintegrating state institutions, the impact of new social media, the rise of China next door, climate change, and deep-seated feelings around race, religion, and national identity all came together to challenge the incipient democracy. Interracial violence soared and a horrific exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fixed international attention. Myint-U explains how and why this happened, and details an unsettling prognosis for the future.
Burma is today a fragile stage for nearly all the world’s problems. Are democracy and an economy that genuinely serves all its people possible in Burma? In clear and urgent prose, Myint-U explores this question―a concern not just for the Burmese but for the rest of the world―warning of the possible collapse of this nation of 55 million while suggesting a fresh agenda for change.
Thant Myint-U is a writer with a humane sensibility and a delicate yet pointed touch....Learned yet also intimate, The Hidden History of Burma is an urgent book about a heavy subject...
The New York Times
Thant Myint-U's most impressive title to date, featuring anecdotes from the author’s own extraordinary life
The Wall Street Journal
"Thant Myint-U is the greatest living historian of Burma. Brave, balanced and truthful, he is also witty and blessed with an enviable lightness of touch, yet sophisticated enough to make the most wide-ranging connections. A profoundly humane and ethical historian, his meditations on national identity, plurality, forgotten ethnicities and the dangers of hyper-nationalism are both wise and thoughtful. The Hidden History of Burma should be read for the pleasure of the author's prose, but it is also vital background reading to anyone trying to understand the Rohingya crisis or wrestling with the complexities of modern South or South East Asia."
Fascinating...Burma/Myanmar is such a complex country and this book is essential to understanding it better. I highly recommend it!
Anderson Cooper, Anchor, CNN AC360
A gripping read, this book offers powerful insights into Burma's history—and its future
Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the UN
William Dalrymple, author of The Anarachy: The Rise and Fall of the East India Company