James Mill’s treatment of religion and the History of British India

Plassart, Anna (2008). James Mill’s treatment of religion and the History of British India. History of European Ideas, 34 pp. 526–534.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2008.03.001

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1016/j.histe...


James Mill’s History of British India (1817) played a major role in re-shaping the English policy and attitudes in India throughout the nineteenth century. This article questions the widely held view that the ‘HBI’ heralded the utilitarian justification of colonisation found for instance in John Stuart Mill’s writings. It suggests that James Mill’s role as a proponent of ‘utilitarian imperialism’ has been overstated, and argues that much of Mill’s criticism of Indian society arose from the continuing influence of his religious education as well as from his links with a network of Presbyterian and Evangelical thinkers. It is only after his death that the colonialist views put forward in the History of British India were re- interpreted in light of his later attachment to utilitarianism.

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