John Stuart Mill Autobiography sheds much light on the life and thought of its famous author. But it conceals more than it reveals in the brief passages where Mill discusses his lengthy career in the service of empire. Although he spent 35 years writing dispatches to India for the East India Company at a time when the latter came to dominate the Indian subcontinent, Mill chose to dismiss his imperial service with curt and dull prose. Whatever role he may have played in the making of the Victorian Raj, Mill thrust that role into the shadows when he composed the story of his life.

In doing so, Mill also directed the spotlight away from the impact of imperialism on his life. The Autobiography is famous for its account of his special education at his father's side and his subsequent attempt to overcome the narrowness of that early indoctrination in utilitarian thought. But the pages of this important self-study are nearly silent on the relationship between these events and the bureaucratic life that Mill led at India House. Readers of the Autobiography can be excused if they conclude that Indian administration was insignificant for Mill's intellectual development. In the grand narrative he constructed to describe his life, Mill placed his intimate contact with imperialism at the margins.

But we should be wary of this interpretation. As a growing body of literature suggests, autobiographies are at best ambiguous guides to the lives of those who write them. Whether one accepts the radical argument that self-studies are a form of fiction or self-invention or the moderate claim that autobiographies are simply an attempt to impose narrative order upon unruly experience, Mill's account of his life in the Autobiography


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
John Stuart Mill and India


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 286

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?