Professor Jim Mills



Personal statement

Research summary

Professor Mills teaches and researches in two subject areas, the social history of psychoactive substances, and the social history of health and medicine.  His work has tackled encounters in Britain, India, Africa and across global history.  He has previously published on psychiatric institutions in India, and on the history of cannabis in Britain and its former empire. He is currently exploring the growth of markets for modern pharmaceuticals in Asia between 1900 and 1945 through a project on cocaine consumption and control in China, India, Myanmar and the Philippines.


Professional Memberships and Activities

He is currently Director of Humanities Research at the University of Strathclyde, where he has also acted as Dean of the Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences and as Vice-Dean Research.  Externally, he has served as Chair of the Wellcome Trust's Expert Review Group, as Chair of the the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme panel, and as a member of the MRC: Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Global Expert Panel.

His dissemination work includes a role in the BAFTA Award-winning series, Darren McGarvey's Addictions (Tern TV 2022) and appearances on BBC Radio's Thinking Allowed.


Research student supervision

Professor Mills supervises research in all aspects of the social history of psychoactive substances, and a range of topics in the modern history of health and medicine.  Current and recent students include:


Eva Ward, 'Drug Wars before Duterte: 'Illicit' substances and the American colonial experiment in the Philippines'.  Awarded 2022, funded by Wellcome Trust Investigator Award studentship.

Yun Huang, 'Beyond Opium: A history of refined drugs and government tregulation in modern China, c. 1871-1945'.  Awarded 2020, funded by Wellcome Trust Investigator Award studentship.

Ian Baker, Cocaine in British colonial Burma: Convergences of commerce, consumption and control.  Awarded 2020, funded by Wellcome Trust Investigator Award studentship.

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: Global Histories, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2021), edited with Lucas Richert.

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).


Back to staff profile

Professional Activities

South Asia's Lost Cocaine? Coca leaf and colonial environments in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), c. 1870 to 1894.
Invited speaker
Consuming cocaine in colonial India: South Asia's market for the nineteenth-century's last wonder-drug, c. 1885 to c. 1914.
Invited speaker
Cocaine markets in Colonial India: Industry, commerce and consumption, 1885 to 1911.
Keynote speaker
The "Global Turn" in Drugs and Alcohol History Roundtable
Before the Ban: cocaine markets in colonial India, 1885-1900.
Invited speaker
Global Histories of Drugs: Why, and what next?

More professional activities


Trainspotting: Dangerous Drugs in Scotland and Britain, c. 1664 to c. 1980
Mills, Jim (Principal Investigator)
This monograph examines the British history of substances that came to be classified as 'Dangerous Drugs' through archives mainly to be found in Scotland. It argues that the country's separate legal, educational and religious systems, together with distinctive medical, scientific and popular cultures, drove a more complex and diverse sets of ideas and practices than previously acknowledged in the UK's encounters with opiates, cannabis and cocaine.
31-Jan-2024 - 02-Jan-2025
SA-UK/MH: Medical Humanities co-working between South Africa
Mills, Jim (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 02-Jan-2026
Changing Minds: Psychoactive Substances in African and Asian History
Mills, Jim (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2020
Cannabis: The Global Histories Network
Mills, Jim (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2021
Building Shared Futures: Co-developing Medical Humanities in China and the UK
Mills, Jim (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, Jim (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2017 - 31-Jan-2017

More projects

Back to staff profile


Professor Jim Mills

Tel: 444 8356