Can anybody recommend a good history of the Mir Yeshiva - specifically until the outbreak of World War II, but ideally even inclusive of the war years? Shaul Stampfer has an excellent history of Volozhin, Novaradok, Telz and Kovno (Lithuanian Yeshivas of the Nineteenth Century) and Gil Perl has a wonderful biography of the Netziv (The Pillar of Volozhin), but I've yet to find a history of the Mir or its rabbonim that wasn't published by Artscroll.
We have already seen Lester Eckman's book mentioned in the comments above and that it was largely based upon the lengthy 1956 article (in Hebrew) which appears in pp. 87-132 of: ישיבת מיר - הרב יוסף ד. עפשטיין - מוסדות תורה באירופה בבניינה ובחורבנה - בעריכת שמואל ק. מירסקי
In addition to these, we have a vast block of articles (mainly in Hebrew, some in Yiddish and English) regarding the Mir yeshiva in the yizkor book for the town of Mir, ספר מיר, published in 1962. See within that book:
- pp. 75-82, 99-136 of the Hebrew section
- pp. 283-288 of the Yiddish section
- pp. 17-26 of the English section
Among the articles is pp. 99-114 which contains a history of the yeshiva written by Rabbi Moshe Tzinowitz.
He would later expand upon this to a full fledged book dedicated to the history of the Mir yeshiva: משה צינוביץ, מיר : תולדות ישיבת מיר, מוריה, חייה, תלמידיה ותורתה. תל אביב: מור, תשמ"א.
We also have the much earlier 1902 biography (in Hebrew) on Rav Chaim Leib Tiktinsky the Mir rosh yeshiva for much of the late 1800s. It was authored by Moshe Yehuda Leib Goldberg in Hebrew: תולדות חיים יהודה ליב טיקטינסקי.
Intersecting with the interests of the original question here is also (in Hebrew) A. Y. Bernstein, ed., Yeshivat Mir (Bnei Brak, 1999-2001), 3 vols. While that doesn't deal with the early history of the yeshiva in the 1800s, it does begin with a focus on the heyday of the yeshiva as a world famous institution between WW1 and WW2 and then continues through the postwar period up to the date of its writing.
Additionally, they now have a decent historical section (in Hebrew) on the yeshiva's official web site:
Other smaller tidbits of memoirs about the Mir yeshiva can be gleaned from individual links at Reeva Kimble's Mir genealogy web site.
It should be noted that local yeshivos and batei midrash did exist in Mir before the official founding of the famous Mir yeshiva. I imagine the difference was that the latter was based on the Volozhin model where it was not intended merely for locals, but even as a learning destination for yeshiva students from all over the map.
An example of the pre-existance of a yeshiva in Mir is the case of Rav Shlomo Zalman Mirkes the author of Sefer Shulchan Shlomo who was the chief rabbi of Mir in the mid 1700s. In the folowing sources it is indicated that in addition to Rav Mirkes being av beis din (אב"ד) of Mir, was also a reish mesivta (ר"מ) there:
- as stated on the title page of his דרוש ההספד\דרוש הוכחה.
- on the title page of his אלו שרשרת העבתת he is described as a marbitz Torah in Mir
- in the haskama by Rabbi Avigdor and his son Rabbi Shmuel (the latter being the last official chief rabbi of Vilna) to Sefer Shulchan Shlomo it also mentions that Rav Mirkes was a ר"מ in Mir
- in the קונטרס צוואה by Rav Mirkes that appears on p. 96 at the end of his ספר מנורת שלמה, an actual reference is made to his beis midrash
- on page 16 of אלו שרשרת העבתת, it mentions divrei Torah in the name of Rav Mirkes by one of his students
Artscroll has a book called The world that was: Lithuania which has a section on Mir.