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Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know® [Paperback]

David I. Steinberg
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 5, 2009 0195390687 978-0195390681
In the past two decades, Burma/Myanmar has become a front-page topic in newspapers across the world. This former British colony has one of the most secretive, corrupt, and repressive regimes on the planet, yet it houses a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is and in and out of house arrest. It has an ancient civilization that is mostly unknown to Westerners, yet it was an important--and legendary--theater in World War II. A picturesque land with mountain jungles and monsoon plains, it is one of the world's largest producers of heroin. It has a restive Buddhist monk population that has captured the attention of the west when it faced off against the regime. And it recently experienced one of the worst natural disasters in modern times, one effect of which was to lay bare the manifold injustices and cruelties of the regime.

Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know® offers a concise synthesis of this forbidding yet fascinating country. David Steinberg, one of the world's eminent authorities on the region, explains the current situation in detail yet contextualizes it in a wide-ranging survey of Burmese history and culture. Authoritative and balanced, it will be standard work on Burma for the general reading public.

'What Everyone Needs to Know' is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What Everyone Needs to Know


Who it's for:

Busy people with diverse interests, ranging from college students to professionals, who wish to inform themselves in a succinct yet authoritative manner about a particular topic.

What's inside:

An incisive approach to a complex and timely issue, laid out in a straight-forward, question-and-answer format.

Meet Our Authors

Top experts in their given fields, ranging from an Economist correspondent to a director at the Council on Foreign Relations, you can trust our authors’ expertise and guidance.

Popular Topics in the "What Everyone Needs to Know" Series

  • International Politics
  • Environmental Policies
  • World History
  • Sciences & Math
  • Religion & Spirituality


"Steinberg (Asian studies, Sch. of Foreign Service, Georgetown Univ.) is well qualified to shed light in a balanced fashion on the complex issues that plague the country ... [The book's] extended question-and-answer format makes this a handy quick reference source for those wanting to cut straight to the main points. VERDICT This is a top choice for students and those with a probing interest in world affairs. Whatever we call it, we are certain to be hearing more about this country."--Library Journal"[A] pointed briefing."--Foreign Affairs

Product Details

  • Series: What Everyone Needs to Know
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195390687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195390681
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #638,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It really is everything you need to know October 7, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
[Note: I commented on a draft of this book. The author is a friend of mine, but I have endeavored to keep this review objective.]

Burma has received a lot of attention in the news these past few years, but very few people know much about the country's history or problems. David Steinberg, one of the top experts on Burma, lays everything out clearly in this book. It covers everything from precolonial history to the country's future development challenges. Steinberg also tries to be evenhanded and unbiased (notice the cover, which features both the monks and the generals).

Admittedly, this is a drier, academic book than something along the lines of Thant Myint-U's The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma. This book might not be quite as useful if you've read a thorough book on Burma or follow the country closely, since this book doesn't break any theoretical ground or unveil any new discoveries. However, it is very comprehensive and includes the latest statistics and developments. The book is organized around a set of questions, which makes for easy reference.

I'd recommend it to policymakers interested in Burma or travelers who like to go beyond the headlines. As the title suggests, this book can serve as a one-stop shop on the country.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended November 30, 2009
I've been reading a lot lately on Burma (Myanmar) and found this book to be a good, highly readable introduction to that troubled nation and its conditions, history and culture. I found it quite good and was pleased that a book on this issue was able to make it into bookstores, not just on Amazon.com. I recommend it highly for people seeking such an introduction or with gaps in their knowledge.

Why, then, four stars instead of five? Although Steinberg is a respected scholar of this nation, and I assume therefore a reliable reporter, he doesn't footnote as much as I'd like. Instead he just supplies a list of recommended readings at the end. When reading about a nation with a government this strange, reliable facts, distinct from propaganda, are important. Therefore when Steinberg says, for instance, that the government moved the capital in part due to astrological considerations (page 18) I would like to see a source and he does not provide one. This was especially the case when reading about bizarre economic policies and the ruling junta's constant fears of a highly implausible US invasion. In other words, although Steinberg is respected and may not feel he needs to cite sources, at times when reading about this nation and its ruling junta I felt like I was reading about something so irrational and so out of the ordinary that I needed to know where I could confirm his statements, if for no other reason if someone were to ask me to do so. Although I have read slightly over a dozen books on this nation (many reviewed on this site) and talked to many people from this nation, making me more knowledgeable than most Americans, I am afraid I have a long way to go before I am able to take everything I read in context. Therefore I wish Steinberg had footnoted and cited sources more carefully.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Steinberg's worst work September 23, 2011
David Steinberg's "Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know" is not his worst work. Pitched at the interested layman, it is a mostly factual summary of Burma's recent history. In person, Steinberg is avuncular and charming. In print, he is dry.

For some years past, Steinberg has parched as an academic although much (most?) of his career has been more along the lines of an administrator in government funded NGOs: USAID, The Asia Foundation. In this book, as in all his publications on Burma, Steinberg advocates that the US government adopt policies to promote development projects and investment rather than sanctions or the promotion of democracy.

It would be unfair to accuse Steinberg of sympathy for the generals who run Burma's regime but he has adopted a sort of "if you can't beat 'em" rationale for getting in bed with them.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best learning book on Myanmar January 21, 2011
By Paul S
I've read quite a few books on Myanmar, having traveled there for 2 months over 2 trips. I can't think of a one that taught me more than this one. Full of fascinating facts and policy arguments that are well put. The book is essentially poli sci academic, but very easy to read due to the approachable writing style. Fascinating, and I ended up highlighting most of the book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Burma/Myanmar August 15, 2012
By zouga
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very comprehensive and thoughtfully written documentary and provides an excellent insight into life in Burma over recent times. This is not a novel, but a factually based book, but is full of important information.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonky June 16, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Probably a must for those who want to understand what is going on in Myanmar. As always, the simple explanations we get from "the news" (all modalities included) have no value if you really want to know. I read this because I wanted to know and found it enlightening. However, the author is very repetitive and somewhat biased.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Burma/Myanmar What Everyone needs To Know May 30, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is very interesting though I found it heavy going.If you are seriously interested in the politics of the country then this is the book for you. Though things have changed since late last year when Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A great political book
This book is more of a political science story. I found it quiet a boring read I think its for a student
Published 13 months ago by Roxanne Eichhorn
2.0 out of 5 stars Burma/Myanmar what Everyone Needs to Know is more than one needs to...
I guess I did learn a lot about Burma/Myanmar but I found the telling boring. Perhaps i was expecting more of a travel book. Read more
Published 13 months ago by ruth rooks
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read if you're travelling to Myanmar
This book was published before the last election in Myanmar in 2010 so the information needs updating but the political framework this book provided me while travelling was... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Bettina Magafakis
3.0 out of 5 stars It's worth it.
good historical and cultural overview. Plods along a bit so it takes a bit of work to stay with it. Does prepare you for better understanding of people, regions and cultures.
Published 18 months ago by Ronald A. Stiller
5.0 out of 5 stars Will the golden land be gold again?
I found this book particularly enlightening. As I am only halfway through the report I have yet to make a full assessment. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Gnebla
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, thorough, compelling
This is an informative unblinking realistic appraisal of contemporary Burma. It is a must read for anyone interested in what many will be srprised to learn is one of themost... Read more
Published on July 5, 2011 by Andrew Rock
5.0 out of 5 stars The actual history hidden in Burma/Myanmar
This is the first book I've read about Burma/Myanmar, and it's most concerning the modern political history especially since 1988. Read more
Published on April 19, 2011 by Gert Bo Thorgersen
4.0 out of 5 stars Another civil war -- the USA has no need to be involved
The longest rebellion in the modern world still operates there. In his opening statement Steinberg admits that: "It is sad and also embarrassing to admit honestly that one cannot... Read more
Published on October 3, 2010 by Richard Stampfle
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