James Mills


  • United Kingdom

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Personal profile

Personal Statement

Research summary

Professor Mills teaches and researches in two subject areas, the social history of drugs and narcotics and the social history of health and medicine in the British empire. He has previously published on psychiatric institutions and encounters in colonial India, and on the history of cannabis in Britain and its empire. He is currently writing the history of cocaine consumption and control in Asia between 1900 and 1945.


Professional Memberships and Activities

He is Chair of the the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme Panel and a member of the Wellcome Trust's Expert Review Group.  He served as Reviews Editor of the Social History of Medicine journal between 2005 and 2008, and is currently a member of the Alcohol and Drugs in History Society's Executive Council and a member of the editorial committee of the Drugs and Alcohol: Contested Histories series published by Northern Illinois University Press.  He regularly contributes to historical debate in the media.  For example see:




Research student supervision

Professor Mills supervises research in all aspects of the social history of drugs and intoxicants, and the history of medicine and health in colonial contexts.  Current and recent students include:

Chris Cavin, 'Intoxication and the Indian Colonial Military: Drugs consumption and control in the Indian Army, 1857-1919’.  October 2014, funded by ESRC doctoral studentship, ESRC Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.

Andrew Glen, ‘Britain, Empire and Opium:  Reassessing official British attitudes towards Asian opium consumption in the late nineteenth century’.  October 2014, funded by AHRC doctoral studentship, AHRC Doctoral Programme Scotland.

Simon Walker, ‘Medicalizing the Military: The British soldier and modern medicine, 1853 – 1918. October 2014, funded by ESRC doctoral studentship, ESRC Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.October 2014.

Thora Hands, ‘Reframing Drink and the Victorians: The Consumption of Alcohol in Britain 1869-1914’.  October 2012, funded by Wellcome Trust doctoral studentship (WT099357MA).

Luke Gibbon, 'Governing Drugs in a Global Context: The League of Nations, 1919-1939’.  Doctorate awarded May 2014, funded by Wellcome Trust PhD studentship (WT085432/Z).

Chris Gill, ‘The Civil Veterinary Departments of British India 1876-1947: Science, medicine, power and nature in a colonial context’. Second supervisor was Ms Jan Usher, Head of Official Publications at the National Library of Scotland.  Doctorate awarded April 2013, funded by AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA08/830).

Leanne Dunlop, ‘Healthy or Hungry 30s? Assessing lifecourses in inter-war Glasgow’. Doctorate awarded May 2012, funded by ESRC Quota Award (PTA-031-2006-00201).

Emma Reilly, ‘From Citizen to Soldier: The British military body in the Second World War’.  Doctorate awarded August 2010, funded by University of Strathclyde scholarship.


Key publications

Cannabis Nation: Control and consumption in Britain, c. 1928-2008, (Oxford University Press Oxford 2012).  For reviews see  



Drugs and Empires: Essays in modern imperialism and intoxication, (Palgrave Macmillan 2007). Edited with Patricia Barton.

Cannabis Britannica: a social and political history of cannabis and British government, 1800-1928 (Oxford University Press Oxford 2005).

Confronting the Body: The politics of physicality in colonial and post-colonial India, (Anthem South Asian Studies Series London 2004). Edited with Satadru Sen.

Madness, Cannabis and Colonialism: the 'native only' lunatic asylums of British India , 1857 to 1900, (Palgrave Basingstoke 2000).


  • history, cshhh, medicine, drugs, psychiatry

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  • 2 Similar Profiles
drug Social Sciences
Cannabis Medicine & Life Sciences
India Social Sciences
Psychiatry Medicine & Life Sciences
Community Psychiatry Medicine & Life Sciences
Modern 1601-history Medicine & Life Sciences
Colonies Arts & Humanities
Taxes Medicine & Life Sciences

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2007 2020

Research Output 2001 2018

Colonising cannabis: Medication, taxation, intoxication and oblivion, c. 1839-1955

Mills, J. H., 11 Jan 2018, Locating the Medical: Explorations in South Asian History. Deb Roy, R. & Attewell, G. N. A. (eds.). New Delhi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Plant Preparations
History of Medicine
1 Citation (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)

Decolonising drugs in Asia: the case of cocaine in colonial India

Mills, J., 30 Aug 2017, In : Third World Quarterly. 14 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
drugs trade


'A different existence altogether' constructing, conditioning and controlling the British soldier's body in the First World War

Author: Walker, S. H., 1 Jan 2018

Supervisor: Mills, J. (Supervisor) & Newlands, E. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Intoxicants and the Indian colonial army : consumption and control, 1857-1919

Author: Cavin, C. R. P., 1 Oct 2017

Supervisor: Mills, J. (Supervisor) & Newlands, E. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Activities 2013 2018

  • 7 Membership of peer review panel or committee
  • 1 Participation in conference
  • 1 Participation in workshop, seminar, course
  • 1 Invited talk

Medicine, trade and power: New approaches to pharmaceuticals in global trade networks.

James Mills (Speaker)
12 May 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

”la Caixa” Banking Foundation – Area of Research and Strategy (External organisation)

James Mills (Advisor)
18 Feb 201829 Oct 2018

Activity: Membership typesMembership of peer review panel or committee


Health History and the Curriculum for Excellence

James Mills (Participant), Emma Newlands (Participant), Arthur McIvor (Participant), Matthew Smith (Participant), Angela Turner (Participant), Patricia Barton (Participant), Ryan Johnson (Participant)

Impact: Impact - for External PortalCulture and creativity, Education