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Explaining Divergent Trends in Coups and Mutinies: The End of the Cold War and the Role of Military Agency

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Maggie Dwyer, Oisin Tansey

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)864-893
Number of pages30
Issue number5
Early online date3 Feb 2021
Accepted/In press26 May 2020
E-pub ahead of print3 Feb 2021


King's Authors


Coups and mutinies have often been treated as broadly equivalent types of behavior. However, they are distinct forms of indiscipline carried out by different sets of actors and have fundamentally distinct goals. This article makes two contributions to the scholarship on both coups and mutinies. First, we offer the first systematic attempt to compare their rates and illustrate the difference in their frequency over time, drawing on data from West and Central Africa. In particular, we identify a striking divergence in the frequency of coups and mutinies over time as well as a set of fluctuations that coincide with the end of the Cold War. Second, we build a new theory to explain these divergent trends. We focus on the role of agency within the military and argue that the upheavals associated with the end of the Cold War were experienced in different ways by junior and senior ranks within armed forces. This, in turn, helps account for variation in the coup and mutiny attempts.

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