Description

This photograph of Dadabhai Naoroji dates from 1892 – the year that he was elected Liberal MP for Finsbury, London. Naoroji was the first Indian to win a seat in parliament, despite Lord Salisbury’s jibe that the British electorate would not accept a ‘black man’ as an MP.[1]

Naoroji’s election provoked mixed reactions: some saw it as ‘an odd choice for an English constituency’, while high-profile public figures including Labour politician Keir Hardy and Florence Nightingale endorsed him.[2]

Dadabhai Naoroji’s politics

Naoroji supported the Liberal Party programme in Parliament. He also campaigned for ‘justice for India’ to make the public aware of the reality of life under British rule. In his book Poverty of India (1876) he argued that Britain ‘drained’ India of £30–40 million every year, causing widespread poverty.

Naoroji lost his seat when the Liberals were defeated in 1895. A plaque on Finsbury Town Hall now commemorates Naoroji as the first Asian elected to the House of Commons.

Footnotes

[1] Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, third Marquess of Salisbury, Edinburgh, (30 November 1888) as cited in 'Lord Salisbury In Edinburgh', The Times, (London, 1 December 1888).

[2] As quoted in Rozina Visram, Asians in Britain (London, 2002), p. 133.

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