The History of Institutional Change in the Kingdom of Bhutan: A Tale of Vision, Resolve, and Power

  • Marian Gallenkamp (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


The Kingdom of Bhutan is probably the most understudied country in South Asia, and yet its unique history holds plenty of intriguing and scientifically important facts and aspects. In this paper due attention will be given to the development of Bhutanese institutions from the establishment of a Buddhist theocracy in the 17th century, through the establishment of hereditary monarchy at the beginning of the 20th century to the transition to democracy at the turning of the millenniums. Contextualizing the more recent events within the broader continuity of political developments in the world’s last Buddhist kingdom is of crucial importance in understanding the underlying trajectories that account for change. These trajectories, it is argued, are primarily shaped by perceptions of threat to national security, unity, and sovereignty, which manifest themselves in critical junctures upon which Bhutan’s farsighted rulers have repeatedly and deliberately come up with innovative institutional changes while at the same time retaining a crucial link with the nation’s history and tradition.


Bhutan, Democracy, Monarchy, Critical Juncture, Institutional Change