Leopold II and the selectorate: An Account in contrast to a racial explanation

Bruce Bueno De Mesquita

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    From 1885 until 1908 Leopold II was not only the King of Belgium but also the personal owner of the Congo Free State. The policy outcomes during his reign turned out to be fundamentally different in the two countries: Whereas in Belgium he improved living conditions, in the Congo he established a brutal tyranny. This paper analyses the reasons for these different leadership styles of Leopold II by means of the 'selectorate theory'. The selectorate theory explains policy outcomes as a function of governance institutions. It assumes that the ruler maximizes his own utility which means first of all to sustain himself in power. Under Belgium's governmental institutions Leopold II required broad support from the general public but in the Congo he only needed a very small group of supporters. To reduce the possibility that Leopold's different leadership styles were caused mainly by racism his period is compared to the reign of the Congolese leader Mobutu Sese Seko.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)203-221
    Number of pages19
    JournalHistorical Social Research
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - 2007

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • General Social Sciences


    Dive into the research topics of 'Leopold II and the selectorate: An Account in contrast to a racial explanation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this