University of Cambridge > > Centre of South Asian Studies Seminars > Remembering and forgetting a prince in exile: Myngoon Min in Myanmar and Vietnam

Remembering and forgetting a prince in exile: Myngoon Min in Myanmar and Vietnam

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The Myngoon Prince was one of several exiled contenders for the throne of Upper Burma in the late 19th century. He was also among a wider contingent of royal exiles from indigenous polities whose power and purpose were removed, and their lives uprooted, by European contests for imperial power. His life in exile took him from British India to the French comptoirs of India and on to Saigon. This trajectory, already complex, was peppered with escapes – both rumoured and real – into the upper reaches of the Mekong to stir rebellion in the Shan States. Myngoon was politically irrelevant by the time of his death in Saigon in 1921. Britain and France had come to agree on the spoils they sought in Southeast Asia, and no longer found him a useful pawn. Any hope of regaining Mandalay was definitively extinguished in the years preceding his death, as his sons each died of drink, despair and suicide. His legacy was debt and a group of maladjusted wives, daughters and granddaughters who were finally allowed to return home to Burma, a place many of them had never known.

The tragic end, however, was not the final story. Myngoon continued to have an active ‘afterlife’ in 1930s Burma as a figure firing up anti-colonial political imaginings. His position in public memory was reshaped at Burma’s independence, and is being recast again today in both contemporary Myanmar and in Vietnam. This talk recounts a search for the exiled Prince’s legacies in both places. It will reflect on public memory in two nation-conscious but increasingly integrated states in Southeast Asia, and suggest ways in which historians might rethink the ‘historical turn’ as a phenomenon that is less scholarly and more embedded within its contemporary context.

This talk is part of the Centre of South Asian Studies Seminars series.

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