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Mill, James


Mill, James (1773-1836) was a Scottish historian, economist, political theorist and the author of the 'History of British India'. Mill was born at Northwater Bridge, in the parish of Logie-Pert, Angus, Scotland, the son of James Mill, a shoemaker. His mother Isabel Fenton sent him first to the parish school and then to the Montrose Academy, where he remained until the unusual age of seventeen and a half.

He then entered the University of Edinburgh, where he distinguished himself as a Greek scholar. From 1790 to 1802, he occupied himself with historical and philosophical studies. Finding little prospect of a career in Scotland, in 1802 he went to London in company with Sir John Stuart, then Member of Parliament for Kincardineshire, and devoted himself to literary work. From 1803 to 1806, he was editor of an ambitious periodical called the Literary Journal, which professed to give a summary view of all the leading departments of human knowledge. During this time he also edited the St James’s Chronicle, belonging to the same proprietor. About the end of this year he began The History of British India, which he took twelve years to complete.  

James Mill
   

In 1813, he completed his first known article 'Money and Exchange. He also wrote on Spanish America, China, Francisco de Miranda, the East India Company, and the Liberty of the Press. In 1818, The History of British India was published, and obtained a great and immediate success. The year following he was appointed an official in the India House, in the important department of the examiner of Indian correspondence. He gradually rose in rank until he was appointed, in 1830, head of the office. In 1821, Mill helped found the Political Economy Club in London.

Mill remained an uncritical admirer of Bentham's philosophy. So he helped found the principal organ of the Philosophical Radicals Westminster review from 1824 to 1826. He as a follower of Benthum believed, people need to be educated so as to best be able to figure out what is their own best interest. From 1831 to 1833 he was largely occupied in the defence of the East India Company during the controversy attending the renewal of its charter, he being in virtue of his office the spokesman of the court of directors. He also cooperated to establish the London University in 1825.

History of British India (vol-3) was His greatest literally monument. The materials for narrating the acquisition by England of its Indian empire were put into space for the first time; a vast body of political theory was brought to bear on the delineation of the Hindu civilization; and the conduct of the actors in the successive stages of the conquest and administration of India was subjected to a severe criticism. The work itself, and the author's official connection with India for the last seventeen years of his life, effected a complete change in the whole system of governing the country. Mill believed in the philosophical theories of the French Revolution. From the view of the French Revolution theories, he believed that, the rights of man and the absolute equality of men to the claiming of securities for good government through a wide extension of the franchise. He had deep knowledge in history, politics, and mental and ethical philosophy. He was said to be the founder of 'Philosophic Radicalism'. His last published book was the Fragment on Mackintosh (1835).

His significant writings are: Money and Exchange, 1808; History of British India, 1st vol., 1818 and 1858; Government, 1820; Elements of Political Economy, 1821; Liberty of Press, 1823 etc. James Mill died on the 23 June 1836. [Nasrin Akhter]