The earliest civilisations in the area that is now Myanmar were established before the Christian era. The Rakhaing Kingdom of the Bay of Bengal coast is thought to have been established in the 4th Century BC and was known to the ancient Greeks. The Pyu, forerunners of the Bamar, established Kingdoms on the Ayeyarwady plains in the 3rd Century BC. The land that became Myanmar was a key trade link between China, India and beyond.

Bamar (Burmese) history really begins with the founding of the great city of Bagan in 849AD. The first Burmese empire, the golden period of Bamar history started in 1044 when King Anawrahta came to the throne. He was converted to Theravada Buddhism by a monk from the Mon Kingdom, which had colonised the southern lands around present day Yangon. In 1057 the Bamar defeated the Mon and Bagan went on to become the wealthy and influential capital of most of present-day Myanmar.

After the fall of Bagan, the country was split into 3 main kingdoms. The Rakhaing still controlled their lands in the west. The Mon re-established themselves and founded a Kingdom at present day Bago and in 1364, the Shan established the Kingdom of Inwa, near present-day Mandalay. In 1550, King Bayinnanung came to the throne, reunified the country and defeated the Siamese (Thai) at Ayuthaya. This period is known as the second Myanmar Empire.

The third Myanmar Empire, or Konbaung Dynasty began in 1752 under King Alaungpaya. During the years that followed the Rakhaing Kingdom was brought under Bamar control and the Siamese were again defeated. In 1824 the British Empire took control of Rakhaing and the far south of Myanmar, and in 1853 took Yangon, which they renamed Rangoon. In 1885 the British defeated the last King, Thibaw, and all Burma became part of the British Empire.

Burma gained its independence on the 4th January, 1948. For many years the country was all-but closed to outsiders, a situation that continued until the early 1990s. During the 1990s the government changed many of the countries place names back to their pre-colonial names, and in 2005 a new capital was established at Nay Pyi Taw (‘Royal Capital’).

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