The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and Democracy in the 21st Century (Paperback)

The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and Democracy in the 21st Century Cover Image

The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and Democracy in the 21st Century (Paperback)

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A New York Times Critics' Top Book of 2019

A Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2020



“An urgent book.” —Jennifer Szalai, New York Times


During a century of colonialism, Burma was plundered for its natural resources and remade as a racial hierarchy. Over decades of dictatorship, it suffered civil war, repression, and deep poverty. Today, Burma faces a mountain of challenges: crony capitalism, exploding inequality, rising ethnonationalism, extreme racial violence, climate change, multibillion dollar criminal networks, and the power of China next door. Thant Myint-U shows how the country’s past shapes its recent and almost unbelievable attempt to create a new democracy in the heart of Asia, and helps to answer the big questions: Can this multicultural country of 55 million succeed? And what does Burma’s story really tell us about the most critical issues of our time?



Thant Myint-U is an award-winning writer, historian, and conservationist. He lives in Rangoon, where he currently heads U Thant House and the Yangon Heritage Trust.
Product Details ISBN: 9780393541434
ISBN-10: 0393541436
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2021
Pages: 320
Language: English
Provides a microcosm of the forces shaping twenty-first century politics.… An essential guide to the world we are in.
— David Runciman, author of How Democracy Ends

At once absorbing, illuminating, and humane.… Invaluable in helping us understand the complexities not just of contemporary Burma but of our postcolonial world.
— Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity

An engrossing new account, elegantly written by one of the people who knows the country best.
— John Reed - Financial Times

A must-read book, not just for those interested in Burma, but for those interested in national identity and democracy in our twenty-first-century world.
— Ian Bremmer, author of Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism

[Thant Myint-U’s] most impressive title to date. It features anecdotes from the author’s own extraordinary life.
— Jeffrey Wasserstrom - Wall Street Journal

The book on Burma I’ve been waiting to read—a riveting behind-the-scenes account of the country’s political and social transition over recent years, a brave unravelling of well-worn myths, and an urgent plea to imagine a new story and better future for Burma.
— Emma Larkin, author of Finding George Orwell in Burma

To much of the outside world, the story of modern Burma is both a disappointment and a mystery. The hoped-for happy ending in which Aung San Suu Kyi, released from house arrest, would lead the country to peace and prosperity failed to materialize. Instead, there have been horrifying human-rights abuses inflicted on the Rohingya community. This superb account explains what happened and why, drawing out the wider lessons for the world.
— Gideon Rachman - Financial Times

Thant Myint-U’s fascinating The Hidden History of Burma is a timely reminder of the importance of intelligent social history.

— Martin Chilton - Independent (UK)

Thant Myint-U is the one indispensable author on Burma. This is an accessible, understated but powerful story of modern Burma’s journey from hope to tragedy. Thant combines insider knowledge with an admirably objective assessment to tell the story of a nation whose promise has been subverted by political betrayal, ethnic conflict, and economic folly. A well-written narrative that dwells on important themes of authoritarianism and identity.
— Pratap Bhanu Mehta, author of The Burden of Democracy and former vice-chancellor, Ashoka University

An engrossing new book about Myanmar’s troubled, unfinished transition from dictatorship to democratic rule.… The Hidden History of Burma should become a guiding reference work for how we view the new Myanmar.

— John Reed - Financial Times