Primary Sources: History of Burma

This page, on the history of Burma and Myanmar (since 1989) is part of a collection assembling links to historical primary sources that are open on the web. It should be seen as a work in progress, and corrections or suggestions for additions are most welcome. These pages were primarily created for the convenience of students who depend heavily on English language sources and may have limited access to large research libraries or commercial databases. Most of the materials below focus on the colonial period sources up to independence in 1948 or various travel accounts published prior to British colonial rule that available online in digital form.


Pre-Colonial Burmese Sources in Translation

Burma Government Reports and Manuals (most of these and many thousands more should be easy to find at the Indian Culture Repository)

  • Reports on Lock-Hospitals [hospital-prisons to register, diagnose, and imprison prostitutes under the Contagious Diseases Acts] in British Burma 1873-1886. [CD Acts ended on the home islands in 1886, but they continued in the colonies until 1888, although 1886 is the final year reported on in this digital collection]

  • Mental Health: Reports on the Rangoon Lunatic Asylum 1878-1906Notes on the Lunatic Asylums in Burma 1907-1924Notes on the Mental Hospitals in Burma 1925-1940

– Annual Report on the Civil Veterinary Department, Burma 1910-1941

Legal History Sources

The Myanmar Law Library offers an extensive online and open access collection of PDF downloads of documents related to the legal history of Burma dating back to the colonial period. Some of these are very heavy files: if you are downloading many of these, consider doing so from the Internet Archive to reduce the burden on the law library, when they are marked as available there. Some of their sources include:

Other legal sources:

Burma Gazetteers

Burma Gazetteer District Volumes

For the following volumes, you may wish to refer to this Wikimedia map based on 1931 colonial period districts:

Census Records

See Burma Library Census section for some entries.

1872Report On The Census Of British Burma Taken In August 1872
1881Report of the Census of British Burma Taken on the 17th February 1881






SOAS Burma/Myanmar Collection

Other Online Collections Related to Burma (Items in bold are the most reccomended)


G. H. Luce’s collection features over 100 maps of his studies on SE Asia, from ancient history to his own time.

Aeronautical charts from Australian National Airways show postal routes from Australia, across significant airports in Asia (including Rangoon), and to Europe.

Nestlé’s Pictorial World Atlas, 1939, shows administrative maps of the world with illustrations of daily life and monuments (Burma, pages 7-9).

Maps of Rangoon & Other Cities: | Plan of Rangoon and the Vicinity 1827 | Island of Cheduba [1840?] | Sketch Plan of Rangoon 1853 | Mandalay & Environs, 1894 | Late 1910s | Map of Water Availability from New Tube Wells, 1929 | Japanese Notes over English Map, 1930s | Two Part Map (including Insein), 1944 [click “up a level” or “down a level” to see all maps in collection] |

Burma (& Occasionally the Surrounding Region): | Ptolemey’s Bay of Bengal | Magni Mogolis Imperium, [1658?] | Magni Mogolis Imperium de Novo Correctus et Divisum, [1710?] | South & SE Asia, 1770 | Coast of Pegu, 1778 | Coast of Tanasserim, 1778 | East Indies, 1789 | Map of Settlements and Trade of the Irrawaddy up to Ummerapoora, 1795 | Aaron Arrowsmith’s Map of Shipping Routes in the East Indies, 1800 | East Indies, 1808 | Chart of the East Indies, 1814 [Check Malay World Sources Page to Find Numerous Maps of this Region Including Burma] | French Map of South & SE Asia, 1821 | French Map of Burma, 1825 | Burma & China by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1829 | John Arrowsmith’s Map of SE Asia, 1834 | Countries Between Turkey & Burma, 1839 | China & Burma, c.1848 | With South China Sea & Indonesia, 1848 | John Rapkin’s Map of Burma & China with Illustrations, 1851 | South, SE, & East Asia, 1852-1885 | SE Asia, 1853[?] | East Asia in Pictorial Book, 1853 | Political Borders, 1853 | Cosmological Map of Mandalay, c.1857-c.1885 | Burma & SE Asia, 1858[?] | One of Richard Sprye’s Proposals for Routes to China with Relation to French Conquests, 1860s | Routes from Rangoon, Through Shan, to China, 1865 | Railway Communications with Western China Commissioned by the House of Commons, 1865 | Survey of Routes from Rangoon to China, 1867 | Very Rough Sketches of Northern Burma, [1868?] | SE Asia, 1872 | Comparison of  Sprye’s Overland Route to Shan & China to Sea & French Routes, 1873 | Pegu Topographical Survey, 1875 | Comparison of French and British Overland Routes to China (Burma & Anam), 1878 | Upper Burma, 1880[?] | Robert Gordon’s Map Tracking the Tibetan Tsangpo River’s Course to the Irrawaddy According to Native Authorities, 1885 | SE Asia, 1885 | Robert Gordon’s Maps of Historical River Courses, 1885 | South-Eastern Frontier with Upper Burma, 1886, Updated to 1912 | Siam, 1888 | Burmese Map of the New Hard Borders in Shan, c.1889 | Illustration of the March 1st 1894 Treaty with China | George Morrison’s Route from Shanghai to Rangoon, 1895 | Skeleton Map of 1897 Modifications to the 1894 Border Agreement with China | Northern Burma Borders, 1900s[?] | Route to the Indies, 1900 | Asia Illustrated in Novel, 1902 | 1-Inch Map of Burma, 1907 | China & Japan, 1910[?] | Veterinary and Pony Stations, 1910  [This file includes annual reports of civil veterinary issues containing similar maps of Burma through to the 1920s on various issues, a separate file carries on until the 1930s and another until the 1940s] | Railway & Steamship Routes of the Far East, 1920s | Stanford’s Map of China & Japan including the Surrounding Regions, 1922 [An Earlier Version of this Map Exists here, 1895?] | Vaccination Map, 1926-1927 | China & Japan, 1930s[?] | Racial Map, 1931 | Linguistic Map, 1931 | Australian Motorists Petrol Co. “Be in the Van to Smash Japan” Map of the Pacific, 1940s | Chengmai, 1940s | Japanese Map of Burma, 1940s | Mergui, 1940s | Pegu, 1940s | POW Camps in Asia, 1940s | East Burma and the SE Asian Hinterland, 1941 | Japanese Comparisons of South Asian, SE Asian, & Pacific Territories to Japanese Territories in Size, 1942 Japanese Maps of Burma, 1942 | Japanese World Map, 1942 | Motorists Map, 1942 | Pacific Ocean, 1942 | Burma, 1943 | Distribution of Labour Across the Burma-Siam Railway, 1943 | Thai-Burma Railway, 1943 [and a second map here] | Tamarkan POW camp [and another here] | Burma Road, 1945 | Pegu & Thai Shan, 1945 | Detailed Maps of Burma, 1945 [click “up a level” or “down a level” to see all maps in collection] | Transportation Map of Burma & Western Thailand, 1945 | Burma’s Size Compared to Europe, 1945 | Victory in Burma, 1945 | Army Campaign Route & Battle Area of Second Burma Campaign, 1948 |

Burma with South Asia: | South Asia with Roads, 1768 | Chittagong, 1818 [British Territory Contested by Burma] | Languages Map, 1824-1852[?] | Military Divisions, 1824-1852[?] | Political Borders, 1824-1852[?] | Political Borders (Chiefly Compiled by Native Knowledge), 1824-1852[?] | Resources Map, 1824-1852[?] | Tea Cultivation in Upper Assam & Northern Burma, 1838[?] (f.54r) | India, Burma & the Straits Settlements, 1852-1885[?] | Atlas featuring Tenasserim, 1854 | “Rice Ports of India”, 1872 | Cholera in India, 1875 | SE Frontier with Burma, 1886[-1912] | SE Frontier, 1891 | Leprosy in India, 1891 [there are numerous maps in this document which include Burma] | Atlas of India, 1894 | Distribution of Wild Hemp, 1895 | Plague in India, 1897 | Burma & Assam States, 1897 | Cattle Breeding, 1904-1905 [This file contains numerous other civil veterinary maps of British India from 1893-1911] | Border with Assam, 1910s |  Infrastructure Map, 1910 | Infrastructure Map, 1916 | Constitutional Map, 1940s | Infrastructure Map, 1936[?] | Maps of South Asia, 1941 | Topographic Surveys of South Asia, 1869[?]-1947[?] |


Digital Newspapers and Journals

Thousands of articles relating to Rangoon and Burma are digitised on “Trove” (mostly Australian papers). Trove similarly has sources from magazines and newsletters, maps, images and artefacts, reports, books and articles, diaries and letters, and music and videos.

Straits colony newspapers are digitised on “Newspaper SG”, interesting articles on Rangoon/Burma can be found such as the advertisement of Burmese funeral trams in Rangoon or the importation of rickshaws.

Details of newspapers, including their language and the political leanings of their writers, were produced by the government in documents such as this one, as well as ones specific to Burma, other editions of which can be found on Indian Culture.




Local Languages Sources (translations vary from one edition to another and there are included notes by each edition’s translator)


Library Guides and Link Collections

List of Books and Sources Available Online Related to Burma / Myanmar

The button below will display a list of over 200 mostly published sources related to Burma. With a few exceptions, they are linked to an online open access version of the work. Most of these are available on the Internet Archive, but some of these links take you to Google Books or the digital collections of various libraries and archives. Click the button to display the latest version of the list of sources:

Loading data…

Contributors: Konrad M. Lawson. I would very much welcome other contributors to join in this effort. Please expect significant updates to this new page, especially during the fall of 2021. Please do help out: What are digital collections and resources that should be added to this page? You can reach Konrad at or on Mastodon.

Rory Gill. I am a former student of MO4971 at the University of St Andrews and it was a privilege to be able to contribute to this resource for future students. Hopefully Myanmar will see many more archival sources digitised in the future and so there will be more opportunities for other people to contribute valuable material from the colonial period. For information on my academic or professional experience, please contact

See also our other Primary Source guides.

Last Updated: October, 2023.