J. S. Mill and the Imperial Experience
In the preceding chapters I have attempted to reconstruct the major features of Mill's career with the East India Company. I have argued that Mill's intellectual life and administrative career were joined in a parallel process of development. Since so little was known of Mill's India House activities, such a narrative was an essential task. But this is not all that needs to be done. The nature of the relationship between Mill's ideas and British imperialism in India should also be closely examined.
Three distinct approaches to this issue seem to present themselves. One largely accepts the near silence maintained by Mill in his Autobiography. Eric Stokes, in his pioneering study of the utilitarians and India, argued that Mill was unenthusiastic about his India House work and that after 1833 there were fewer opportunities for Mill to influence policy. Consequently, Mill's role in the great utilitarian project in India was a minor one. 1 This position has recently been developed with subtlety by Janice Carlisle. Stressing the young Mill's dream of being a man of action in the public world of parliamentary politics, Carlisle notes that his bureaucratic career was forced upon Mill by his father. Deeply disappointed by this imposed selection, Mill increasingly defined himself as a "bookish man" whose worth and character were revealed solely on the written page of published articles and books. Mill kept his imperial career distinct from his public life because at India House he was shaped and restrained by his external circumstances. As a bureaucrat, Mill knew very well that he was merely a cog in the machinery of imperial administration. 2 This point has been also suggested by Robin Moore, who claims that Mill was a cautious administrator guided, as were most of his colleagues, by pragmatic