An offbeat and thrilling journey through a lost colonial heritage--and a powerful expose of Burma's modern tragedy.
Part travelogue, part history, part reportage, The Trouser People is a vivid account of two adventures, a century apart, into the heart of Burma.
Sir George Scott was a largely-forgotten Victorian adventurer who hacked, bullied, and charmed his way through uncharted jungle to help establish British colonial rule in Burma. Born in Scotland in 1851, Scott was a die-hard imperialist with a fondness for gargantuan pith helmets and a bluffness of expression that bordered on the Pythonesque. He spent years mapping the lawless frontiers of this "geographical nowhere," the British Empire's easternmost land border with China. Scott was also the author of The Burman, a book that is in print to this day, a photographer of rare sensibility, and the man who introduced soccer to Burma.
Modern-day Burma (Myanmar) is a hermit nation misruled by a brutal military dictatorship and numerous drug lords. Its soldiers, like the British colonialists before them, are nicknamed "the trouser people" by the country's sarong-wearing civilians. Inspired by Scott's unpublished diaries, Andrew Marshall retraced the explorer's intrepid footsteps from the moldering colonial splendor of Rangoon to the fabled royal capital of Mandalay, then up into the remote Shan hills, the tribal heartland where Scott had his greatest adventures and closest shaves. Wonderfully observed, mordantly funny, and skillfully recounted, The Trouser People is an offbeat and thrilling journey through Britain's lost colonial heritage-and a powerful expose of Burma's modern tragedy.
The ThaiBurma Border
Philip the Miracle Monk rummaged at length in the mysterious folds of his orange robes and retrieved a trilling mobile phone.
'Excuse me for a second,' he apologized, but I was getting used to it. Philip's robes had been ringing all morning. Hairless, podgy and swaddled in robes, Philip reminded me at times of very large, very bright baby. I had met him in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, soon after dawn, and it was immediately obvious that he was a highly unusual monk. For a start, most monks were not fanatical fans of the heavy-metal group The Scorpions at least not as far as I knew. Monks weren't usually called Philip either. His Buddhist holy name was as long as his arm, and was bit of mouthful for foreigners, so he had chosen an English name inspired by an electrical appliance. 'I liked the sound of it,' he told me. 'It sounded very modern.
Nor are monks supposed to know as much about troop movements as Philip seemed to: the Shan ...
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The stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, Britain ceased to be a superpower, and its king ceased to sign himself Rex Imperator. This is the remarkable story of the events surrounding this transition.
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