While both the names Bama and Myanma historically referred only to the main ethnic Burmese group, the Burmese governments in the post-independence period instituted a difference in meaning between Myanmar and Bamar in the official Burmese language. The name Myanma/Myanmar was expanded to include all citizens of the country, while the name Bama/Bamar kept its original meaning, referring to the Burmese people. Both are in widespread use colloquially. Most people still use Bamar/Myanmar interchangeably to refer to the country, depending on the context. But officially the country is now called Myanmar.
As the history of Myanmar is quite complex, we have only noted here the key historical dates.
The earliest archaeological evidence of civilisation in the Irrawaddy valley dates to about 1500 BC. People in the region were turning copper into bronze, growing rice, and domesticating chickens and pigs; they were among the first people in the world to do so. By 500 BCE, iron-working settlements emerged in an area south of present-day Mandalay. Bronze-decorated coffins and burial sites filled with earthenware remains have been excavated. Archaeological evidence at Samon Valley south of Mandalay suggests rice-growing settlements that traded with China between 500 BC and 200 CE
Early civilisation in Myanmar dates back to the 1st century with archaeological evidence of Pyu (a Tibetan ethnic group) Kingdoms in Thayekhittaya (Sri Ksetra), Beithano (Visnu) and Hanlin. As early as the 6th century, people called the Mon began to enter from the Mon kingdoms of Haribhunjaya and Dvaravati in modern-day Myanmar. By the mid 9th century, the Mon had founded at least two small kingdoms (or large city-states) centred around Pegu and Thaton.
In the 11th Century, the First Empire was founded by King Anawrahta as the Bagan Empire, which lasted until the late 13th century when the Mongols invaded them. After the fall of Bagan, the Mongols left the hot Irrawaddy valley but the Kingdom was irreparably broken up into several small kingdoms.
By the mid-14th century, the country had become organised along four major power centres: Upper Myanmar, Lower Myanmar, the Shan States and Arakan. There were the Ava Kingdom (1364–1555), the Hanthawaddy Pegu Kingdom (1287–1539) founded by King Bayintnaung, the Shan States (1287–1557) and the Arakan (1287–1784). Hanthawaddy was the most powerful and prosperous kingdom of all post-Pagan kingdoms. Under a string of gifted monarchs, the kingdom enjoyed a long golden age, profiting from foreign commerce. The kingdom, with a flourishing Mon language and culture, became a centre of commerce and Theravada Buddhism.
The Toungoo Dynasty (1486–1752)
Toungoo, led by its ambitious king Tabinshwehti and General Bayinnaung, reunified the small kingdoms that had existed since the fall of the Bagan Empire, and founded the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia. However the overextended empire unravelled soon after Bayinnaung’s death in 1581. Siam declared independence in 1584 and went to war with Burma until 1605. Bayinnaung’s son, Nyaungyan, immediately began the reunification effort, successfully restoring central authority over Upper Burma and Shan States by 1605. Except for a few occasional rebellions and an external war – Burma defeated Siam’s attempt to take Lan Na and Martaban in 1662–64 – the kingdom was largely at peace for the rest of the 17th century. The kingdom entered a gradual decline, and the authority of the “palace kings” deteriorated rapidly in the 1720s.
The Konbaung Dynasty (1752–1885) was founded by king Alaungpaya.
In 1885 the British captured the country to develop its empire. They give Burma full independence in 1948. The military took over power in 1962.