Book Reviews

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A Handbook of Practical Information

James George Scott

1906, 1910, 1921, 1999. viii, 536 pp., 67 sepia plates, map. 19 x 13.3 cm. Softbound.

ISBN-10: 974-8299-41-4 $28.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-41-9

VOL III. Burma

A Handbook of Practical Information
Book review by Michael Smithies

(The Nation, Bangkok, October 22, 2000)

Sir George Scott was an authority on colonial Burma. In 1882, under the pen-name “Shway Yoe”, he published The Bunnan, His Life and Notions, a work now recognised as a classic.
   He went on to produce Burma, As It was, As It Is, and As It Will Be in 1886, five volumes of the Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States (with JP Hardiman) in 1900, and Burna from Earliest Times to the Present Day in 1924.
   The present reprint was first published in 1906; this is the revised third edition of1921. It is rather similar to the 1904 publication The Kingdom of Siam which the Siam Society reprinted in 1988, seeking to give a comprehensive guide to the Kingdom at the beginning of what was then a new century.
   Burma: A Handbook of Practical Information covers the physical aspect of that country and its races; extractive industries, agriculture, and transport; archaeology and the arts; religion; language and literature; and a necessarily dated section on government.
   There are extensive appendices on the different divisions of the country and on the flora and fauna found there.
   A lot of this has not changed at all, of course; hence the value of the reprint. There is one fascinating section, “Hints to Visitors or New Residents”, where things have indeed changed. Tourists in those days were expected to have time and money.
   They are advised to hire a “boy” and a cook, lay in wines and spirits (to be “replenished at any railway station of headquarters town”), acquire a saddle and a side saddle, to have supplies of quinine and chlorodyne “to give to the servants if necessary”, while the traveller immunises himself with “a bottle of brandy and some pints of champagne”.
   Take as little ice as possible, do not eat fruit at night, get your clothes made locally. Do not expect invitations to stay from resident Europeans, and do not rush Pagan: to do so “is very much like trotting through the Louvre after lunch”. “Sport” means exclusively shooting the wildlife, or fishing.
    This volume is reprinted in tasteful sepia tones throughout, with marbled end-papers and a fawn jacket.

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