Biography of John Stuart Mill

Portrait of John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill was a nineteenth century Liberal philosopher.

When and Where was he Born?

20th May 1806, Rodney Street, Pentonville, London, England.

Family Background:

John Stuart Mill was the son of the philosopher, social historian, economist and official in the East India Company, James Mill and Harriet Burrowl.


Educated by his father, James and his friends such as Francis Place and especially the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. He was taught Latin and Greek at an Early age and become an expert economist and logician by the age of 16. James’s main aim was to form a genius who would carry on the cause of utilitarianism and its implementation after he and Bentham had died. He was deliberately keep away from association with other children and did not go to Oxford or Cambridge Universities later on as he refused to become an Anglican in religion.

Timeline of John Stuart Mill:

1818: Publication of his father James’s “History of India”.

1820: Mill goes to stay, aged fourteen, in France for a year with Sir Samuel Bentham who was the brother of Jeremy Bentham. He studies widely in Paris.

1820’s: John Stuart Mill starts a pen-friendship with Auguste Comte, the founder of positivism and sociology.

1826: He suffers a nervous breakdown due to his incessant studying and decides that there is more to life than serving the public good and increasing his knowledge. Despite having grown up as a Utilitarian he turns his attention to artists and poets such as Goethe, Coleridge and Wordsworth for inspiration.

1830: Mill meets Harriet Taylor for the first time.

1830s: He becomes the Editor of “The London and Westminster Review”, a radical quarterly journal. He was to continue to write about the need to use the scientific approach to understand social, political and economic change. He follows in the footsteps of his father as an administrator for the East India Company.

1843: His “The System of Logic” is published which attempts to describe logic and science especially as applied to social conditions. He consistently attacks the “intuitionist” philosophy of William Whewell and Sir William Hamilton.

1848: “Principles of Political Economy” is published. It is a work which cements John Stuart Mill’s fame with the British public and for which he has become best known. He tried to show that economics was not a “dismal science” but necessary to understand society. He states that nations should sacrifice economic growth for the sake of the environment and that populations should be limited so that there would not be a large amount of poor people in starvation.

1851: He marries Harriet Taylor whom he had known for 21 years previously.

1857: After the Indian Mutiny the British Government takes over the work of the East India Company in India and Mill is effectively retired from his post.

1858: His wife Harriet dies after contracting severe lung congestion.

1859: “On Liberty” is published and is surrounded by controversy and disapproval. Mill and Harriet felt that adventurous and courageous individuals were becoming too rare in the present ordered and stuffy society.

1863: “Utilitarianism” is published which states that mankind should work towards the greatest good and the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people.

1865: Mills’s “Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy” attacks the protestors and also provokes controversy for at least twenty years afterwards.

1865: He is elected Liberal Member of Parliament for Westminster. He becomes Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews.

1866: John Stuart Mill becomes the first person in the British Parliament to call for women to be given the vote.

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament, London taken from the London Eye big wheel (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1868: He ends his time as an M.P. and Lord Rector of St Andrews.

1869: “On The Subjection of Women” is published and is thought to be excessively radical in Mill’s day but is now seen as liberal feminism. It states that freedom is as good for women as it is for men and that the only way to understand the different natures of men and women was by fair experiment with women having access to everything that men had.

1873: Mill dies.

(1874): The “Three Essays on Religion” are published deliberately after his death due to their controversial ideas that it is impossible, amongst other things, that the universe is governed by an omnipotent and loving God.

When and Where Did he Die?

8th May 1873, Aix-En-Provence, near Avignon, France from a virulent form of erysipelas (an inflammation of the skin) combined with a fever.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1843: “A System of Logic.”
1848: “Principles of Political Economy.”
1859: “Dissertations and Discussions.”
1861: “Considerations on Representative Government.”
1865: “Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy”
1863: “Utilitarianism.”
1869: “On the Subjection of Women.”
1873: “Autobiography.”
(1874): “Three Essays on Religion”.


1851 to Harriet Taylor whom he had known for 21 years previously. (Died 1858 after contracting a severe lung congestion).

Site of Grave:

Cemetery at St Veran, near Avignon, Provence, France next to his wife Harriet.

Places of Interest:


British Library.