Source: Sorabji Jehangir, Representative Men of India (London: W.H. Allen & Co., 1889)

Dadabhai Naoroji

Born in a priestly Parsi family in Bombay, Dadabhai Naoroji lost his father at age four and was raised by his mother and brother. He became a scholar of the Elphinstone Institution, from which he graduated in 1845. He was offered a legal scholarship to the Bar in England by Chief Justice of Bombay, Sir Erskine Perry, but was prevented from accepting – as several Parsi elders feared he would convert to Christianity. Nevertheless, he started work as an Assistant Professor at his alma mater and became the first Indian to be appointed Professor in 1854. He resigned in 1856 and left for England to run Cama & Co., a newly started Parsi firm in London which he was a partner of.

Before leaving for England, Naoroji was heavily involved in academics. With the help of Principal Patton, he set up numerous institutions and societies in India, including the Student’s Literary and Scientific Society that still exists today. He was also a pioneer of female education and established the Parsi Girls’ School. While in England, he championed for greater awareness of India by the British by starting the London Indian Society with W. C. Bonnerji and the East India Association. He toured the country writing about and correcting popular European fallacies about India.

Upon his return to Bombay in 1869, he sought to raise awareness about the impoverished state of India which incurred the wrath of many Anglo-Indian officials. However, his views were later accepted by India’s Finance Minister, Sir E. Baring, who used them as the basis for further finance and economic studies. In 1874, Naoroji was appointed Dewan of Baroda State and reformed the entire administration, combating corruption along the way. He returned to Bombay as a member of the Municipal Corporation until 1885 when he accepted a seat on the Bombay Legislative Council but left again for England in 1886. There, he campaigned for a seat in the British Parliament as a Liberal candidate and succeeded in 1982 – becoming the first Asian Member of Parliament. He tirelessly promoted Indian affairs within the British Parliament with the aid of Sir William Wedderburn. In 1895, the Liberals had to resign and Naoroji failed to get into Parliament afterward. He remained in England, and in 1902 released his famous book, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India which aroused much anger amongst the British populace.

Naoroji recovered from the backlash to become President of the Calcutta Congress where he spent his last years of politics championing the rights of India. He passed away in 1917, marking a mournful year for all of India.

Source: Famous Parsis (New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1990), 103-160

Works

The Parsee Religion (England: 1861)

The Manners and Customs of The Parsees (London: Printed by Pearson & Son, 1862)

The European and Asiatic Races: Observations on the Paper Read by John Crawfurd (London: Trubner & Co., 1866)

Essays, Speeches, Addresses and Writings, (On Indian Politics) of the Hon’ble Dadabhai Naoroji, comp. C.L. (Parekh, Bombay: Caxton Printing Works, 1887)

Poverty of India: Papers and Statistics (London: Winckworth Foulger & Co. The Aldinf Press, 1888)

Poverty and Un-British Rule in India (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1901)

Ideas of IndiaIdeas of India