John Stuart Mill and the practice of colonial rule in India
Journal of International Political Theory
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© The Author(s) 2020. John Stuart Mill’s justification for British rule in India is well known. Less well known and discussed are Mill’s extensive writings on the practice of British rule in India. A close engagement with Mill’s writings on this issue shows Mill was a much more uncertain and anxious imperialist than he is often presented to be. Mill was acutely aware of the difficulties presented by the imperial context in India, he identified a number of very demanding conditions that would have to be met if Britain’s imperial mission was to be successful, and he was very troubled by the dangers posed to this mission from politics in Britain. Toward the end of his life, Mill become much more pessimistic about the progressive possibilities of British colonialism, in part because of what he thought had happened after the transfer of British rule from the East India Company to the British state. A focus on Mill’s arguments about the practice of British rule in India goes some way to providing a more nuanced account of what Mill thought about colonialism.