The principal threat most autocratic leaders face stems from within the regime. To control militaries and mitigate the risk of coups d’état, many autocratic leaders repeatedly purge strong officers from the military. What are the causes and consequences of such purges? Despite its importance, scholars rarely have studied the question, as they have lacked a systematic and comprehensive dataset. The Military Purges in Dictatorships (MPD) dataset contains information on the dates and characteristics of 1,007 military purges, and covers 566 political leaders in 116 authoritarian countries over the period 1965 to 2005. In this article, I describe MPD, compare it with other datasets, present descriptive statistics on the data, and suggest its applications. By coding the timing and various characteristics of military purges, MPD facilitates empirical study of the relationships between autocratic leaders and their militaries, and thus is useful for researchers studying political violence, repression, civil-military relations, coup-proofing, leader survival, and regime transition.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.