Papers of James Philip Mills

Scope and Content

The collection comprises personal papers of James Philip Mills, including correspondence, diaries, reports, lecture notes and articles relating to his experiences in North East India, and his later teaching and research on the area; and 24 albums of predominantly black & white ethnographic photographs covering North East India.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Philip Mills was born in 1890 and educated at Winchester School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1913 he joined the Indian Civil Service and served in North-East India until 1947. He was Sub-divisional officer at Mokokchung in the Naga Hills of Assam from 1917-1924 and Deputy Commissioner, based at Kohima during the 1930s. In 1930 he married Pamela Vesey- Fitzgerald.

In 1930 he was appointed the Honorary Director of Ethnography for Assam. His first monograph, The Lhota Nagas was published by the Government of Assam in 1922, followed by The Ao Nagas in 1926 and The Rengma Nagas in 1937. In 1942 he was awarded the Rivers Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute for anthropological fieldwork among the Nagas. In 1943 he was appointed as Advisor to the Governor for Tribal Areas and States, with overall responsibility for tribal matters in North-East India. This appointment enabled him to travel among and study for the first time tribal people living north of the Brahmaputra towards the Tibetan frontier, and to give permission to his good friend Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf, and also Ursula Graham-Bower to enter this closed area and carry out their pioneering studies.

Mills was elected to the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1948 and served as its President from 1951-1953. In 1948 he became Reader in Language and Culture with special reference to South-East Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Here he worked with Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf from the inception of the Department of Cultural Anthropology in 1950 until ill health forced his retirement in 1954.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Donated in 1960 with a further accrual in 1990.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Related Material

Other J. P. Mills material is held at Pitt-Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford; Royal Anthropological Institute, London and the Faculty of Social Anthropology, Cambridge (Naga Videodisk).