John Stuart Mill and India.

John Stuart Mill and India. – book reviews

Bruce L. Kinzer

John Stuart Mill’s thirty-five-year India House career has long posed a problem for those who have endeavored to understand the relation of his life to his thought. Given the part played by India House in his daily routine over a period of decades, Mill’s laconic treatment of his Leadenhall Street experience in the Autobiography seemed somewhat odd. Yet that treatment, together with India’s absence from the bulk of Mill’s correspondence and published writings, pointed to the conclusion that the chief importance of his employment at India House was its affording him a decent living on terms largely compatible with his pursuit of intellectual projects wholly distinct from that employment. To be sure, Mill’s entry into India House service in the 1820s figures prominently in Janice Carlisle’s reading of Mill’s mental crisis as essentially vocational in nature in John Stuart Mill and the Writing of Character, but in her argument Mill’s reserve regarding his place of employment arises less from indifference than from aversion. In John Stuart Mill and India, Lynn Zastoupil maintains that it is the narrative structure of the Autobiography, with its emphasis on the history of Mill’s mental development as Influenced first by his father and then by Harriet Taylor, that explains his cursory handling of his India House career. According to Zastoupil, Mill’s association with India merits close study from those interested in the course of his mental development.

In Zastoupil’s analytical scheme, each stage of Mill’s intellectual growth, as outlined in the Autobiography, finds corresponding expression in a particular disposition toward the Indian issues with which he engaged. Hence in Mill’s Benthamite phase, which endured until the mental crisis, his ideas on British government in India were those of James Mill, who advocated a brand of enlightened despotism for India with a view to creating a new social order “in which the virtues proper to a materially prosperous society would be fostered” (201). The younger Mill’s profound reaction against Benthamism, which began in the late 1820s and culminated in his 1840 essay on Coleridge, had its Indian analogue in Mill’s identification with the “empire of opinion” school of Elphinstone, Munro, and Malcolm. Mill’s criticism of Macaulay’s Education Minute, and his support for indirect rule through established Indian elites, exemplified the “conservative” and “romantic” strains then informing much of Mill’s thought. His less tolerant and indulgent attitude toward Indian rulers and elites during the 1840s and 1850s, when he manifested a decided receptivity to Dalhousie’s annexation policy, was the Indian correlative of Mill’s recognition that his reaction to Benthamism had been intemperate. Yet the heart of Zastoupil’s thesis is that a reciprocity of influence existed; i.e., if Mill’s changing imperial preferences reflected the impact of his mental development so too did his imperial experience affect the evolution of his thought. Zastoupil invokes this proposition in explicating Mill’s rebellion against Benthamism and in examining Mill’s mature views on Ireland, land reform in Britain, the rule of dependencies, and political participation.

The book has notable virtues. The research is impressively thorough. The prose is admirably lucid, and the analysis rigorous and circumspect. Offering a wealth of detail and a multitude of sensitive observations apropos of Mill’s work at India House, Zastoupil’s study constitutes a worthy addition to Mill scholarship. How telling is the argument? It is not telling enough to persuade this reader that Mill’s weighty intellectual coinage contains more than a trace element of Indian metal.

Bruce L. Kinzer University of North Carolina, Wilmington

COPYRIGHT 1996 Phi Alpha Theta, History Honor Society, Inc.

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