ohn Stuart Mill's entire professional life spanning 35 years was spent in the service of the British East-India Company (EIC) from 1823 at the tender age of 17 to 1858 — the year when the company was abolished. From a humble clerk but upwardly mobile clerk under the Examiner of Indian Correspondence when he first joined the trading company, Mill was to rise to the rank of the Examiner in 1856.
Prior to his promotion to Fourth Assistant to the Examiner, he was only responsible for preparing official despatches which had little input of his own. As such, his official correspondence with India started only in 1828, following his promotion to become one of the assistants to the examiner with the public department. From his transfer to the political department in 1836 to 1856, he was virtually personally responsible for the copious volumes of correspondence pertaining to EIC's relations with the Indian Native States.
Having said so, however, it must be kept in mind that Mill was writing these correspondences in his official capacity in the EIC and was, for much of his career, subordinate to the Examiner. Furthermore, correspondence with India required the perusal and approval by the Board of Control set up by the India Act 1784. As such the official correspondences, though generally reflective of Mill's opinions, were nevertheless not wholly determined by his will.
In contrast against this multitude of official correspondence was the relatively scarcity in the amount of non-official writings. This scarcity, despite his long career in the EIC, casts a doubt on India's significance in his life and intellectual experience.
Mill, John Stuart. Writings on India. Edited by John M. Robson, Martin Moir and Zawahir Moir. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; London: Routledge, c.1990.
Last modified October 2000