The country was once made up of a group of small principalities but they were united by the Gurkha people under King Prithivi Narayan Shah in 1768. The 'Gurkha War' with Britain led to a 'British resident' (government representative) being stationed in Katmandu in 1816 and the kingdom became dependent upon Britain. After 1846, it was ruled by the hereditary prime ministers of the Rana family but they were overthrown in 1951 by a revolution backed by the Nepali congress and the monarchy was restored under King Tribhuvan.
Nepal regained independence in 1923 but was still bound to Britain by treaties until 1947 when the rest of the Indian Empire was partitioned. In 1955, King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah succeeded his father, holding elections and introducing the country's first constitution in 1959. BP Koirala, leader of the Nepali Congress Party, became Prime Minister but his policy disagreements with the King led to the dissolution of parliament in December 1960 and the banning of political parties. A new monarchical constitution with an indirectly elected national assembly was introduced in 1962.
After Mahendra's death in 1972, his successor and son, Birendra, was faced by increasing demands for political reform. He held a referendum, amended the constitution and in 1981, elections were held for a new, more independent assembly. The king supported Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa but he was replaced by Lokendra Bahadur Chand in May 1983. In 1986, the assembly election majority went to members who opposed the partyless panchayat or council system.
It was abolished in 1990 after mass prodemocracy demonstrations in which 150 protestors were killed by the police and political parties were made legal. King Birendra gave his approval to a new constitution that transferred power from the monarchy to the elected government. Although two Communist Party factions reunited for the elections of 1991, the Nepali Congress Party gained a majority and Girija Prasad Koirala, brother of BP Koirala, became Prime Minister.
Nepal's landlocked position between India and Chinahas led to trade disputes and border problems but it has tried to pursue a neutral non-aligned policy and create a 'zone of peace'. It retains some links with Britain and the tradition of recruiting Gurkha hillmen for the British army which dates back to 1815 continues.
The people of Nepal are predominately Tibeto-Mongolian but they speak Khas, a dialect of a northern Indic language.
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This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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