Review of `NAOROJI Pioneer of Indian Nationalism` by Dinyar Patel (Harvard University Press 2020 – ISBN 9780674238206 - 352 pp)
Like most South Asians in the diaspora of my generation, born during World War II, one had grown up hearing the name Dadabhai Naoroji (Naoroji), but only superficially as the first Indian to be elected to the British Parliament way back in the 1890s.
In his note on sources, Patel recounts the many years of his underlying
research and the problems encountered by him in accessing and handling original
papers, most of them in a delicate state, in the National Archives of India and
elsewhere. He has also generously acknowledged the contribution of earlier
biographers - Rustom M Masani and two more recent ones - in adding to the body
of knowledge about Naoroji.
And in his
own thoughtful `Conclusion`, Patel reflects on Naoroji`s impact on the independence struggle and states: `It is simply impossible to imagine how the nationalist
movement would have developed without [Naoroji]` (p 263).
In Naoroji, then, Patel has constructed a
rounded portrait – on the basis of surviving records, traceable sources and a
whole host of other documented material, all properly referenced – of a giant
of a man, a true Pioneer of Indian
Nationalism indeed; a hero and role-model not only to his contemporaries
but also to future leaders like Gandhi and Jinnah, who had touched base with
him, and worshiped him, and who later came into their own to complete the
This is a
timely publication, when so much of our current national discourse is concerned with a reappraisal of the story of Empire.
(a condensed version of this review appears on the LSE Review of Books site at https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2021/02/08/book-review-naoroji-pioneer-of-indian-nationalism-by-dinyar-patel/)