Direct and indirect rule is a significant concept in Southeast Asian colonial history. It refers to the method of rule that colonial powers practiced on the Southeast Asian nations which they ruled. Definitions and Examples of Direct and Indirect Rule
‘Direct’ rule means relying on colonial administrators to run the colony, with little reliance on the locals, such as in the case of Burma since their annexation in 1886. Upon Burma’s annexation by the British, many of its political systems were abolished, such as the Ava Court and the Hlutdaw. Instead, the British imposed their own form of rule on Burma, which was patterned after the Indian model. Burma was divided into districts, each with an assistant commissioner and police assistant, for the sake of administrative efficiency. Moreover, they got rid of the traditional Burmese circle system and enforced the Indian village pattern, which because it required fewer village headmen, and was hence easier to administrate. From top to bottom, Burmese rule was profoundly altered. Inversely, ‘indirect’ rule describes colonial rule that utilizes pre-existing political systems, like in Malaya, which was not changed and ruled in the way Burma was. When the British colonized Malaya, the sultanate was allowed to be preserved, though a framework of bureaucratic changes were added. In the case of Western Malaya, Malay rulers were still allowed to rule, however, under the guidance of a British resident, who could touch on all matters except those relating to religion and custom. Instead of Burma where they were completely abolished, the traditional icon of rule, the sultans, were preserved, and hence Malaya could maintain some form of national pride, despite they having little real political power. Harshness and Tone of Rule
Although there is the implication that a colonial power practicing direct rule would rule more harshly than one practicing indirect rule, this is not entirely true, as the tone that rule takes is more...
Bibliography: Southeast Asia (Oxford History of the 20th century) by Michael Leifer (Published 1998)
Nicholas Tarling, The Cambridge History of SEA Volume 2 Part 1 by Nicholas Tarling (Published 1999)
Nations and States in South-East-Asia by Nicholas Tarling (Published 1998)
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