The Luba Kingdom (later Empire) was established in the 15th century in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it was not until the end of the 16th century that it reached its zenith. (The region had been in habitation for around 1000 years prior to the rise of the kingdom, with small villages based on fishing along lake shores and working iron.) A pre-colonial state, it made good use of the marshy grassland to develop a society based on agriculture and pastoralism (raising cattle).
The peak of the Kingdom was reached under the rule of King (Mulopwe) Kongolo Maniema and his successor Kalala Ilunda (named for an almost mythical first king of the Luba) at the end of the 16th century. Administration was carried out through a council of nobles, Bamfumu, and clan chiefs, Balopwe. Records were kept through oral tradition by the Mbudye.
The decline of the Lube Empire was brought about by the influx of Muslim slave traders from the east in the 1870s. By the end of the 19th century the empire had split in two, which made its incorporation into King Léopold II's Congo Free State that much easier.