Dadabhai Naoroji

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) was an Indian political leader and one of the founders of the Indian National Congress. A leading nationalist author and spokesman, he was the first Indian to be elected to membership in the British Parliament.

Dadabhai Naoroji was born into a leading Parsi family in Bombay. After an outstanding career at Elphinstone College, Naoroji served briefly as professor of mathematics at Elphinstone. In 1855 Naoroji became a partner in an important Parsi commercial firm in London, and in 1862 he set up his own commercial house there. In the same year he founded the influential East Indian Association to educate the English public on Indian affairs.

In 1873 Naoroji accepted the difficult post of Divan, or chief minister, of the prominent Indian princely state of Baroda but left it fairly soon for an elected seat in the Bombay Municipal Corporation. It was here that his public service career truly began. After several busy years in the public life of the province, Naoroji published his famous indictment of British exploitation of India, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India. This book guaranteed his position in the very front rank of the Indian nationalist movement.

In 1885 Lord Reay, the governor of Bombay, appointed him to the Legislative Council, and in the same year Naoroji played a leading role in the creation of the Indian National Congress, the major organization promoting Indian nationalism. A year later he was elected president of the Indian National Congress at its second session. During the same year he was one of a very few prominent Indians chosen to testify before the Royal Commission on the Public Services in India.

In 1892 Naoroji was elected to the British Parliament on the Liberal ticket from Central Finsbury. He was the first Indian to win a seat in the House of Commons. A year later he was, for the second time, elected to the presidency of the Indian National Congress. In 1895 Naoroji lost his seat in Parliament, but in 1896 he was appointed to the influential Royal Commission on Indian Expenditures, to whose labors he made a significant contribution. The report of the commission was important in shaping Indian fiscal practices. In 1906 Naoroji's public service was given special mark when he was elected to a third term as president of the National Congress. Naoroji's probity, care in the use of evidence, painstaking research in Indian economic conditions, and persistent advocacy of the Indian cause were the hallmarks of his active and impressive career.

Further Reading on Dadabhai Naoroji

A convenient one-volume edition of Naoroji's writings and speeches is Essays, Speeches, Addresses and Writings, edited by C. L. Parekh (1887). The best study in English of Naoroji is Rustom P. Masani, Dadabhai Naoroji (1939). See also Vidya Dhor Mahajan, The Nationalist Movement in India and Its Leaders (1962).

Additional Biography Sources

Rawal, Munni, Dadabhai Naoroji, a prophet of Indian nationalism, 1855-1900, New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1989.