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‘A great pedestrian’: John Stuart Mill, the walking philosopher

Stack, D. ORCID: (2023) ‘A great pedestrian’: John Stuart Mill, the walking philosopher. Journal of Victorian Culture, 28 (3). pp. 353-370. ISSN 1750-0133

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/jvcult/vcad015


Walking was an essential part of John Stuart Mill’s education, working life, and leisure. As a boy, James Mill schooled his son on daily walks; as an adult, Mill made an 11-mile round trip across London on foot to work and back each day; for recreation he went on walking tours; his passion for botany led him to walk regularly in rural Britain; later in life he undertook walking tours across France, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Mill, in short, was ‘a great pedestrian’. But this aspect of his life remains under appreciated by historians. By combining insights from the history of emotions, cultural history, and cultural geography, with the burgeoning literature on the significance of walking, this article will demonstrate that Mill’s walking – including where he walked, and how he walked – is not only worthy of attention, but can help us to better understand both his identity and his thought. The article not only connects Mill to the peripatetic and romantic pedestrian traditions, but also seeks to demonstrate that walking aided the process, and helped to shape the content, of Mill’s philosophy. In particular, the article argues that an appreciation of Mill’s walking can contribute to the development of a new perspective on the thorny question of Mill’s understanding of higher and lower pleasures.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:111889
Uncontrolled Keywords:Literature and Literary Theory, Visual Arts and Performing Arts, History, Cultural Studies
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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