Early in his career, Mahatma Gandhi praised one of his Indian political mentors, Dadabhai Naoroji, as both the “father of the nation” and a “mahatma” (great soul)—titles that are today in India both reserved for Gandhi himself. Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism, examines the extraordinary life of a foundational figure in India’s modern political history. Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) pioneered devastating critiques of British colonialism (such as the “drain of wealth” theory), served in the British Parliament as the first-ever Indian MP, helped found and lead the Indian National Congress, forged broad ties with anti-colonialists around the world, and established self-government or swaraj as India’s ultimate objective. Naoroji is the first comprehensive study of the most significant Indian nationalist leader before Gandhi.
Under Naoroji’s leadership, Indian nationalism developed with a conscious commitment towards broader emancipatory politics worldwide. Indians made common cause with disenfranchised British women, European labor activists and socialists, colonial subjects in countries such as Ireland, American anti-imperialists, and African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans. Naoroji served as the principal node for these global connections. These links, importantly, sustained the Indian nationalist movement long after Naoroji’s retirement from political life: they were utilized by Gandhi, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Jawaharlal Nehru, and others.
This book reestablishes Naoroji’s centrality in the history of modern India, the British Empire, and the global movement against imperialism.