Published in the Journal of Burma Studies

In 1853 British generals thought they had rid the world of all written evidence of dissent against their colonial objectives in Burma (Myanmar).
They didn’t know about a Mormon missionary in town (Rangoon) with a rogue tendency to write about anything but his religious mission…
[Update 6/4/17: In the context of the recent terror attacks in the U.K., I want to be clear that this article is not an anti-British piece. Turns out British soldiers themselves dissented. Burmese fought bravely against their aggressors. This article nuances and humanizes the war.]

This is the first major publish on my journey to publishing a full book about Elam Luddington’s unique observations, and at least at one point, major participation in, Asian colonial history during his Mormon mission. This article is the accumulation of 4 1/2 years of research. 

A special thanks to Joseph StuartAmanda Hendrix-Komoto, and Saskia Tielens for helping me revise early editions of this article. Thank you to Tosawan Malabuppha for traveling to Myanmar (Burma) to research there. Thanks to my mom Helen Horton for helping me find creative ways of paying for the research trips. Thank you to Brigham Bastian for helping me revise my very first draft which I presented at the Mormon History Conference several years ago. (Gosh, when was that, exactly? Three years ago, I think. 2014)

This link will allow you to read an excerpt. If you’re interested in reading the whole article, you can access it through an academic institution or, I believe, a library with a Project Muse account.


A new source reveals Burmese bravery at the Shwedagon pagoda following the hostilities of the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1853. Once buried in the Mormon archives in Salt Lake City a brief journal describing events in and around the Shwedagon Pagoda of that period has surfaced. The journal, written by a man situated in the Shwedagon Pagoda, strengthens postcolonial scholarship focusing on counter narratives to colonial conquest and dominance not easily found in primary sources to date. Destruction or suppression of primary sources served a strategic agenda as another type of bayonet for colonial conquest. Through this new eye witness, we can now glimpse amidst desecration and hostilities into Burmese rebellion against their aggressors.

Publication: The Journal of Burma Studies

I can finally announce that The Journal of Burma Studies will publish my article entitled, “The Other Bayonet: A New Source to Frame the Second Anglo-Burmese War” in their June issue (Vol 21, no. 1).

I carefully compared Elam Luddington’s Mormon missionary journal entries about Burma against all the effected primary sources of that time period and discovered something quite revealing. Luddington wrote and saw things in Burma that no one else recorded or that has reached the historical record.

These revelations, in some cases, alter what we know about the Second Anglo-Burmese War and confirm what some have believed was true but did not have a primary source to confirm that belief.

Review: Whitefly

Whitefly: A Novel

By Abdelilah Hamdouchi; translated by Jonathan Smolin

The American University in Cairo Press

144 pp.

Reviewed by AA Bastian

December 3, 2016

Detective Laafrit is trying to quit. Will sucking lozenges keep him from smoking while he searches for the murderer of four Moroccans washed ashore near Tangier’s coastline? The case takes on international proportions as ties between the murdered men and intrigues in Spain emerge.

Whitefly opens with youth protesting illegally for jobs, a parallel to Laafrit’s activist youth. He must defuse the situation to save the students from the retribution of the Moroccan police force, famed for torturing their captured….

Read the full review here.


Excerpt from Unsigned: “The Letters”

…On a day towards the end of the year 1854 in Bangkok of what was then called Siam, the heat only slightly drew a sweat as the weather finally turned. Draping tropical greens and crawling vines dressed the homes along canals that formed the thoroughfares of the city. Everyone either owned their own long slender wooden boat with paddles or rented them rather than puncture the dense brush.

Most houses along the canals stood on stilts at least a foot or two above the ground to avoid flooding. Red-brown, solid, teak-wood formed the walls and framed the open windows shaded with slanted over-hangs. Semi-circle, rounded clay tiles mounded up the pointing rooves, sharply angling from below like an arrow’s point. These homes were shaped somewhat like a house in Connecticut, but pinched in sharper skyward angles. The rooves often ended their A-line, at the ends, with a wooden or gilded flare.

His Excellency, the Phraya Si Suriyawongse, Commander of the Royal Palace Navy, the most preferred of the King’s, second only to his father, the Chancellor of Defense, called all the Protestant evangelists in Siam to his home. They arrived from the canal by water taxis just as they had come in the past. The minister knew the missionaries well but his greeting was icy.

The missionaries congregated in the designated room unsure of the tenor of the invite yet. He looked them over carefully clutching a sheet of newsprint in his hands. Commander Si Suriyawongse handed it to each one of them to look at page five where an editorial note and then two unsigned letters appeared of the Singapore Straits Times, recently published on 12 September 1854. As each missionary perused the editorial and then the two letters, they were dumbfounded.

The editorial note began, “Siam. –By late advices we regret to learn that matters are not progressing favourably in the country of Siam, in consequence of the policy and conduct pursued by the reigning sovereign….”

None of the missionaries present held any real malice toward the king, nor had they discussed amongst themselves any disdain for him. They looked at each other wondering which one of their fellows had acted duplicitously, who would gain by this, who might they now trust, or perhaps more importantly, what larger force was behind it.

After they had each seen the editorial note and the letters the minister faced each missionary individually to probe, “Did you write that letter?”….