Constructing an Intelligence State: the Colonial Security Services in Burma, 1930-1942
Clipson, Edmund Bede
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To enable publication of research
My doctoral research focuses on the development and operation of the intelligence services in British colonial Burma during the years 1930 to 1942. This involves an examination of the causes of intelligence development, its progress throughout 1930-1942, its rationale and modus operandi, and the pressures it faced. This time period permits us to assess how intelligence development was a product of the colonial government's response to the 1930 peasant uprising which came as such a shock to colonial security and how thereafter intelligence helped prevent popular hostility to the government from taking the form of an uprising. As a result, intelligence information was increasingly used to secure colonial power during the period of parliamentary reform in Burma in 1937. The thesis further examines the stresses that riots and strikes placed on colonial security in 1938, the so-called ‘year of revolution’ in Burma. The thesis then proceeds to consider how intelligence operated in the final years of colonial rule before the Japanese occupation of Burma in 1942. This study is significant not only because very little work on the colonial security services in Burma exists for the period under review, but also because it reveals that intelligence was crucial to colonial rule, underpinning the stability of the colonial state and informing its relationship with the indigenous population in what remained, in relative terms at least, a colonial backwater like Burma. The argument that intelligence was pivotal to colonial governmental stability in Burma because of its centrality to strategies of population control departs from conventional histories of Burma which have considered the colonial army to have been the predominant instrument of political control and the most significant factor in the relationship between the state and society in colonial Burma. Rather it will be argued here that the colonial state in Burma relied on a functioning intelligence bureau which collected information from local indigenous officials and informers and employed secret agents to work on its behalf. This information was collated into reports for the government which then became integral to policy formulation. The primary source base for this work includes British colonial material from government and private collections predominantly in the British library as well as government papers in the National Archives in Kew.
PhD in History