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Dadabhai Naoroji

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Title: Dadabhai Naoroji  
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Subject: Indian National Congress, President of the Indian National Congress, Alfred Webb, Indian independence movement, History of the Indian National Congress
Collection: 1825 Births, 1917 Deaths, Academics of University College London, British People of Parsi Descent, British Politicians of South Asian Descent, Elphinstone College Alumni, India House, Indian Businesspeople, Indian Emigrants to the United Kingdom, Liberal Party (Uk) Mps, Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for English Constituencies, Parsi People, People from Mumbai, Presidents of the Indian National Congress, Uk Mps 1892–95
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Dadabhai Naoroji

Dadabhai Naoroji
दादाभाई नौरोजी
Dadabhai Naoroji in c. 1890
Member of Parliament
for Finsbury Central
In office
Preceded by Frederick Thomas Penton
Succeeded by William Frederick Barton Massey-Mainwaring
Majority 3
Personal details
Born (1825-09-04)4 September 1825
Bombay, British India
Died 30 June 1917(1917-06-30) (aged 91)
Political party Liberal
Other political
Indian National Congress
Spouse(s) Gulbaai
Residence London, United Kingdom
Profession Academic, political leader, mp, cotton
Committees Legislative Council of Mumbai
Religion Zoroastrianism

Dadabhai Naoroji (4 September 1825 – 30 June 1917), known as the Grand Old Man of India, was a Parsi intellectual, educator, cotton trader, and an early Indian political and social leader. He was a Liberal Party member of parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom House of Commons between 1892 and 1895, and the first Asian to be a British MP.[1] if one does not count the Anglo-Indian MP David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre

Naoroji is also credited with the founding of the Plekhanov.


  • Early life 1
  • Drain theory and poverty 2
  • Views and legacy 3
  • Works 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Naoroji was born in Mumbai and educated at the Elphinstone Institute School. He was patronised by Maharaja of Baroda Sayajirao Gaekwad III and started his public life as the Dewan (Minister) to the Maharaja in 1874. Being an Athornan (ordained priest), Naoroji founded the Rahnumae Mazdayasne Sabha (Guides on the Mazdayasne Path) on 1 August 1851 to restore the Zoroastrian religion to its original purity and simplicity. In 1854, he also founded a fortnightly publication, the Rast Goftar (or The Truth Teller), to clarify Zoroastrian concepts. In 1855, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at the Elphinstone College in Bombay,[2] becoming the first Indian to hold such an academic position. He travelled to London in 1855 to become a partner in Cama & Co, opening a Liverpool location for the first Indian company to be established in Britain. Within three years, he had resigned on ethical grounds. In 1859, he established his own cotton trading company, Dadabhai Naoroji & Co. Later, he became professor of Gujarati at University College London.

Dadabhai Naoroji statue, near Flora Fountain, Mumbai
A plaque referring to Dadabhai Naoroji is located outside the Finsbury Town Hall on Rosebery Avenue, London.

In 1867 Naoroji helped to establish the East India Association, one of the predecessor organisations of the Indian National Congress with the aim of putting across the Indian point of view before the British public. The Association was instrumental in counter-acting the propaganda by the Ethnological Society of London which, in its session in 1866, had tried to prove the inferiority of the Asians to the Europeans. This Association soon won the support of eminent Englishmen and was able to exercise considerable influence in the British Parliament. In 1874, he became Prime Minister of Baroda and was a member of the Legislative Council of Mumbai (1885–88). He was also a member of the Indian National Association founded by Sir Surendranath Banerjee from Calcutta a few years before the founding of the Indian National Congress in Bombay, with the same objectives and practices. The two groups later merged into the INC, and Naoroji was elected President of the Congress in 1886. Naoroji published Poverty and un-British Rule in India in 1901.

Naoroji in 1892.

Naoroji moved to Britain once again and continued his political involvement. Elected for the Liberal Party in Finsbury Central at the 1892 general election, he was the first British Indian MP.[3] He refused to take the oath on the Bible as he was not a Christian, but was allowed to take the oath of office in the name of God on his copy of Khordeh Avesta. In Parliament, he spoke on Irish Home Rule and the condition of the Indian people. In his political campaign and duties as an MP, he was assisted by Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the future Muslim nationalist and founder of Pakistan. In 1906, Naoroji was again elected president of the Indian National Congress. Naoroji was a staunch moderate within the Congress, during the phase when opinion in the party was split between the moderates and extremists. Naoroji was a mentor to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He was married to Gulbai at the age of eleven. He died in Bombay on 30 June 1917, at the age of 91. Today the Dadabhai Naoroji Road, a heritage road of Mumbai, is named after him. Also, the Dadabhai Naoroji Road in Karachi, Pakistan is also named after him as well as Naoroji Street in the Finsbury area of London. A prominent residential colony for central government servants in the south of Delhi is also named Nauroji Nagar. His granddaughter Khrushedben was also involved in the freedom struggle. In 1930, she was arrested along with other revolutionaries for attempting to hoist the Indian flag in a Government College in Ahmedabad.[4]

Drain theory and poverty

Dadabhai Naoroji's work focused on the drain of wealth from India into England through colonial rule.[5] One of the reasons that the Drain theory is attributed to Naoroji is his decision to estimate the net national profit of India, and by extension, the effect that colonisation has on the country. Through his work with economics, Naoroji sought to prove that Britain was draining money out of India.[6] Naoroji described 6 factors which resulted in the external drain. Firstly, India is governed by a foreign government. Secondly, India does not attract immigrants which bring labour and capital for economic growth. Thirdly, India pays for Britain's civil administrations and occupational army. Fourthly, India bears the burden of empire building in and out of its borders. Fifthly, opening the country to free trade was actually a way to exploit India by offering highly paid jobs to foreign personnel. Lastly, the principal income-earners would buy outside of India or leave with the money as they were mostly foreign personnel.[7] In Naoroji's book 'Poverty' he estimated a 200–300 million pounds loss of revenue to Britain that is not returned. Naoroji described this as vampirism, with money being a metaphor for blood, which humanised India and attempted to show Britain's actions as monstrous in an attempt to garner sympathy for the nationalist movement.[8]

When referring to the Drain, Naoroji stated that he believed some tribute was necessary as payment for the services that England brought to India such as the railways. However the money from these services were being drained out of India; for instance the money being earned by the railways did not belong to India, which supported his assessment that India was giving too much to Britain. India was paying tribute for something that was not bringing profit to the country directly. Instead of paying off foreign investment which other countries did, India was paying for services rendered despite the operation of the railway being already profitable for Britain. This type of drain was experienced in different ways as well, for instance, British workers earning wages that were not equal with the work that they have done in India, or trade that undervalued India's goods and overvalued outside goods.[9] Englishmen were encouraged to take on high paying jobs in India, and the British government allowed them to take a portion of their income back to Britain. Furthermore, the East India Company was purchasing Indian goods with money drained from India to export to Britain, which was a way that the opening up of free trade allowed India to be exploited.[10]

When elected to Parliament by a narrow margin of 3 votes his first speech was about questioning Britain's role in India. Naoroji explained that Indians were either British subjects or British slaves, depending on how willing Britain was to give India the institutions that Britain already operated. By giving these institutions to India it would allow India to govern itself and as a result the revenue would stay in India.[11] It is because Naoroji identified himself as an Imperial citizen that he was able to address the economic hardships facing India to an English audience. By presenting himself as an Imperial citizen he was able to use rhetoric to show the benefit to Britain that an ease of financial burden on India would have. He argued that by allowing the money earned in India to stay in India, tributes would be willingly and easily paid without fear of poverty; he argued that this could be done by giving equal employment opportunities to Indian professionals who consistently took jobs they were over-qualified for. Indian labour would be more likely to spend their income within India preventing one aspect of the drain.[12] Naoroji believed that to solve the problem of the drain it was important to allow India to develop industries; this would not be possible without the revenue draining from India into England.

It was also important to examine British and Indian trade to prevent the end of budding industries due to unfair valuing of goods and services.[13] By allowing industry to grow in India, tribute could be paid to Britain in the form of taxation and the increase in interest for British goods in India. Over time, Naoroji became more extreme in his comments as he began to lose patience with Britain. This was shown in his comments which became increasingly aggressive. Naoroji showed how the ideologies of Britain conflicted when asking them if they would allow French youth to occupy all the lucrative posts in England. He also brought up the way that Britain objected to the drain of wealth to the papacy during the 16th century.[14] Naoroji's work on the drain theory was the main reason behind the creation of the Royal commission on Indian Expenditure in 1896 in which he was also a member. This commission reviewed financial burdens on India and in some cases came to the conclusion that those burdens were misplaced.[15]

Views and legacy

Dadabhai Naoroji is regarded as one of the most important Indians during the independence movement. In his writings, he considered that the foreign intervention into India was clearly not favorable for the country.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Naoroji in a letter of 1894 that "The Indians look up to you as children to the father. Such is really the feeling here."[17]

Bal Gangadhar Tilak admired him, he said;

Here are the significant extracts taken from his speech delivered before the East India Association on 2 May 1867 regarding what educated Indians expect from their British rulers.


  • The manners and customs of the Parsees (Bombay, 1864)
  • The European and Asiatic races (London, 1866)
  • Admission of educated natives into the Indian Civil Service (London, 1868)
  • The wants and means of India (London, 1870)
  • Condition of India (Madras, 1881)
  • Poverty of India
A Paper Read Before the Bombay Branch of the East India Association, Bombay, Ranima Union Press, (1876)
  • C. L. Parekh, ed., Essays, Speeches, Addresses and Writings of the Honourable Dadabhai Naoroji, Bombay, Caxton Printing Works (1887). An excerpt, "The Benefits of British Rule", in a modernised text by J. S. Arkenberg, ed., on line at Internet Modern History SourcebookPaul Halsall, ed., .
  • Lord Salisbury's Blackman (Lucknow, 1889)
  • ; Commonwealth Publishers, 1988. ISBN 81-900066-2-2

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Sanjay Mistry "Naorojiin ,Dadabhai" in David Dabydeen (et al, eds) The Oxford Companion of Black British History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007, p.336-7
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Ganguli B.N. "Dadabhai Naoroji and The Drain Theory" The Journal of Asian Studies 26.4 (August 1967) 728–729.23, February 2013.
  6. ^ "Raychaudhuri G.S. "On Some Estimates of National Income Indian Economy 1858–1947" Economic and Political Weekly 1.16 (December 1966) 673–679. JSTOR. Web. 23, February 2013.
  7. ^ Ganguli B.N. "Dadabhai Naoroji and the Mechanism of External Drain" Indian Economic and Social History Review 2.2 (1964) 85–102, Scholars Portal. Web. 24, February 2013
  8. ^ Banerjee, Sukanya "Becoming Imperial Citizens : Indians in the Late Victorian Empire Durham" Duke University Press, 2010. Ebrary. Web. 24 February. 2013.'
  9. ^ ^Ganguli B.N.
  10. ^ Doctor Adi. H. "Political Thinkers of Modern India" New Delhi Mittal Publications, 1997. Google Book Search. Web. 26 February 2013.
  11. ^ Chatterjee, Partha "Modernity, Democracy and a Political Negotiation of Death" South Asia Research 19.2. (1999) 103–119, Scholars Portal. Web. 24 February 2013
  12. ^ ^Banerjee, Sukanya
  13. ^ ^Doctor Adi. H.
  14. ^ Chandra, Bipan "Indian Nationalists and the Drain, 1880–1905" Indian Economic And Social History Review 2.2 (January 1964) 103–114, Scholars Portal. Web. 26 February 2013
  15. ^ Edited by Chishti, M. Anees "Committees And Commissions in Pre-Independence India 1836–1947 Volume 2: 1882–1895" New Delhi Mittal Publications, 2001. Search Google Books. Web. 26 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London", p. 9
  17. ^ "Gandhi and Indians in South Africa", p. 37, by Shiri Ram Bakshi, year = 1988
  18. ^ "Encyclopedia Eminent Thinkers (vol. 11 : The Political Thought of Dadabhai Naoroji)", p.30 by Ashu Pasricha
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain

Further reading

  • Rustom P. Masani, Dadabhai Naoroji (1939).
  • Munni Rawal, Dadabhai Naoroji, Prophet of Indian Nationalism, 1855–1900, New Delhi, Anmol Publications (1989).
  • S. R. Bakshi, Dadabhai Naoroji: The Grand Old Man, Anmol Publications (1991). ISBN 81-7041-426-1
  • Verinder Grover, ‘'Dadabhai Naoroji: A Biography of His Vision and Ideas’’ New Delhi, Deep & Deep Publishers (1998) ISBN 81-7629-011-4
  • Debendra Kumar Das, ed., ‘'Great Indian Economists : Their Creative Vision for Socio-Economic Development.’’ Vol. I: ‘Dadabhai Naoroji (1825–1917) : Life Sketch and Contribution to Indian Economy.’’ New Delhi, Deep and Deep (2004). ISBN 81-7629-315-6
  • P. D. Hajela, ‘'Economic Thoughts of Dadabhai Naoroji,’’ New Delhi, Deep & Deep (2001). ISBN 81-7629-337-7
  • Pash Nandhra, entry Dadabhai Naoroji in Brack et al. (eds).Dictionary of Liberal History; Politico's, 1998
  • Zerbanoo Gifford, Dadabhai Naoroji: Britain's First Asian MP; Mantra Books, 1992
  • Codell, J. "Decentering & Doubling Imperial Discourse in the British Press: D. Naoroji & M. M. Bhownaggree," Media History 15 (Fall 2009), 371–84.

External links

  • "Dr Dadabhai Naoroji, 'The Grand Old Man of India'", – Presents a complete chronology of Naoroji's life.
  • Portraits of Dadabhai Naoroji at the National Portrait Gallery, London
  • Works by or about Dadabhai Naoroji at Internet Archive
  • Works by Dadabhai Naoroji at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • B. Shantanu, "Drain of Wealth during British Raj",, 6 February 2006
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Dadabhai Naoroji
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Frederick Thomas Penton
MP for Finsbury Central
Succeeded by
William Frederick Barton
Political offices
Preceded by
Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee
President of the Indian National Congress
Succeeded by
Badruddin Tyabji
President of the Indian National Congress
Succeeded by
Alfred Webb
Preceded by
Gopal Krishna Gokhale
President of the Indian National Congress
Succeeded by
Rash Behari Ghosh
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