Professor Jim Mills


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).


Cannabis : Global Histories
Mills James, Richert Lucas
From "Papaber Errat" to "Tincture of Opium" : poppies, opiates, and pain in early modern Scotland (ca. 1664–1785)
Mills James H
The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs Vol 35, pp. 91-114 (2021)
Patients, carers and consumers : agency and the history of pharmaceuticals
Mills James H
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences Vol 76 (2019)
Colonizing cannabis : medication, taxation, intoxication and oblivion, c. 1839-1955
Mills James H
Locating the Medical Explorations in South Asian History (2018) (2018)
Decolonising drugs in Asia : the case of cocaine in colonial India
Mills James
Third World Quarterly (2017)
The IHO as actor : the case of cannabis and the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961
Mills James H
Hygiea Internationalis Vol 13, pp. 95-115 (2016)

More publications

Professional activities

Global Histories of Drugs: Why, and what next?
Beyond the Medicines/Drugs Dichotomy: Historical Perspectives on Good and Evil in Pharmacy
Changing Minds: Societies, States, the Sciences and Psychoactive Substances in History.
Medicine, trade and power: New approaches to pharmaceuticals in global trade networks.
”la Caixa” Banking Foundation – Area of Research and Strategy (External organisation)
Society for the Social History of Medicine (SSHM) Postgraduate conference, Shanghai University,

More professional activities


SA-UK/MH: Medical Humanities co-working between South Africa
Mills, James (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 31-Jan-2024
Changing Minds: Psychoactive Substances in African and Asian History
Mills, James (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2020
Cannabis: The Global Histories Network
Mills, James (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2021
Building Shared Futures: Co-developing Medical Humanities in China and the UK
Mills, James (Principal Investigator) Kelly, Laura (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2024
Christopher Cavin - The Charles Henry Brent Papers and the Rise of International Drug Control Policy
Young, Craig (Principal Investigator) Mills, James (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2017 - 31-Jan-2017
The Shanghai Initiative: Medical Humanities futures in the UK and Asia
Mills, James (Principal Investigator)
02-Jan-2017 - 30-Jan-2021

More projects