James Mill Biography
James Mill (April 6, 1773 – June 23, 1836) was born on Northwater Bridge, Scotland. Philosopher, a historian, and British economist considered one of the most relevant figures of the 19th century. Mill was a brilliant and influential scholar. His thinking and the ideas he promoted changed the way in which political theories on human rights and equality were understood, throughout his career, he rejected the actions of the East India Company in the colony. He was one of the main drivers of utilitarianism, a philosophical theory created by Jeremy Bentham, an economist with whom he worked for several years.
Throughout his career, he wrote for the Anti-Jacobin Review, the British Review, the Eclectic Review, and the Edinburgh Review. Among his most outstanding works are Principles of political economy (1822) and Analysis of the phenomena of the human spirit (1829). Mill was the father of the renowned philosopher and utilitarian economist John Stuart Mill.
Mill studied at the University of Edinburgh, where he stood out for his intelligence, becoming one of the institution’s outstanding students. In 1798 he graduated as a Presbyterian preacher, a profession he practiced on an itinerant basis. At the same time, he started teaching. While teaching, he became interested in historical and philosophical studies, areas in which he deepened the rest of his life.
Towards the beginning of the 19th century, he moved to London, where he served as a journalist. At that time, he published a booklet in which he talked about the corn trade, criticizing the reward given for the export of grain. In 1803, he was in charge of the London Literary Journal and two years later he was director of the St James ’Chronicle. The following year, he began to write History of British India (1817), a work in which he delved into the history of India based on the information collected in recent years by English-speaking writers, it consisted of three volumes divided into six books.
In the first book, he deals with the first interactions between Great Britain and India, the second book talks about religion, literature, and culture of ancient India. The third book, talks about the Islamic conquest and the government and the last three deal with the expansion and consolidation of the British government in India, emphasizing the operation of the East India Company, a company that criticized extensively.
In 1808, he came into contact with the economist and philosopher Jeremy Bentham, with whom he shared interests and ideas, becoming allies and fellow students. In the following years Mill adopted the principles of utilitarianism, which he helped spread. Between 1806 and 1818 he collaborated in several publications such as the British Review, the Anti-Jacobin Review, the Edinburgh Review, and the Eclectic Review. He was also editor and writer of the Philanthropist newspaper with William Allen, a publication in which he contributed articles on education, laws, and freedom of the press.
For this same period, he wrote articles on politics, education, and law for the Encyclopædia Britannica, which were published in the appendix of the fifth edition of 1814, among which were highlighted Prisons, Jurisprudence, and Government, articles that were reprinted on several occasions and influenced deeply in the political environment of the time, which was reflected in Parliament’s reform project in 1832.
After harshly criticizing the East India Company in his book History of British India (1817), he was appointed official at the House of India in 1819, a position he served for several years; over time it was climbing positions, becoming head of the examiner’s office in 1830. During these years he promoted various reforms that changed the way the colony was governed. At the beginning of the 1820s, he published Principles of Political Economy (1822), a book in which he presented his theory of the salary fund, which is directly related to supplying and demand. This was further developed by his son, John Stuart Mill. In this work, the influence of economist David Ricardo’s thinking can be seen.
In the following years, he participated in the discussions that led to the foundation of the University of London in 1825. Four years later, he published Analysis of the phenomena of the human spirit (1829), a work in which he applied the utilitarian premises to psychology, proposing a theory of the human mind based on the foundations of associationism.
In the last years of his career, he published Essay on the Ballot and Fragment on Mackintosh (1830) and Whether Political Economy is Useful (1836). Mill’s work profoundly influenced the country’s politics, especially in the reform of Parliament, as well as in the change in the way the colony was governed.
It is necessary to highlight that his work History of British India (1817), written without him visiting the country, created an unfavorable image of India, which was seen by readers as an extremely backward and underdeveloped country. The renowned British scholar and economist died on June 23, 1836, in Kensington, London.