Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Wim P.M. Vijverberg


Miles Corak

Committee Members

Jonathan Conning

Subject Categories

Growth and Development | Income Distribution | Political Economy | Regional Economics


Civil Conflict, Institutions, State Capacity, Inequality


First, while mass armed civil conflicts predominantly occur in weak states, which are states that lack state capacity, it is unclear why not all weak states experience mass armed civil conflict. Second, political stability and highly unequal distribution of resources are opposing forces that are unlikely to coexist together. However, highly unequal societies have existed with relative stability. Indeed, cross-country literature on civil war finds little relationship between conflict and unequal distribution of resources. This dissertation attempts to address these issues using the Civil War in Nepal which lasted from 1996 to 2006.

Institutions are fundamental for the proper functioning of any state. Conflict within a state can be seen as a medium of change from one institution to another. Whereas some institutions change incrementally with little space for conflict, others change abruptly providing the opportunity for mass armed conflict. The Kingdom of Nepal, through two-and-a-half centuries, developed a stable socio-political order that hinged on the institution of the monarchy. The distribution and control of land were used as a primary tool for state-building. This structure, including the unequal distribution of land, was legitimized by a process of Sanskritization that was dependent on the institution of the monarchy. The structure collapsed suddenly as a result of the massacre of the king and ten other members of the royal family on June 1st, 2001. This unfortunate incident was unrelated to any national or international politics but was due to an internal family feud. I use this exogenous shock to identify the differences in conflict outcomes before and after the massacre. Whereas conflict was isolated and sparse in the pre-2001 period, it escalated and spread to all parts of the country immediately following the massacre. Relative to the trends in conflict-related deaths before the massacre, I find a six-fold increase in conflict-related deaths after the massacre. While the loss of legitimacy triggered the widespread conflict in Nepal, it would have been unlikely without any motive for conflict. I find that conflict, in the post-massacre period, tripled in regions with unequal distribution of farmland relative to more equal regions.