In the general election of 1886 Dadhabai Naoroji (1825–1917), one-time Bombay mathematics professor and longtime Parsi merchant-entrepreneur,ran on the Liberal ticket for the constituency of Holborn and lost, with a totalof 1,950 votes against 3,651 cast in favor of the Tory candidate, ColonelDuncan.Naoroji's candidacy received little publicity outside Holborn itself and indeed, but for Naoroji's second bid for a parliamentary seat in 1892 theHolborn debacle might have gone unnoticed in the annals of parliamentary history, as did the attempts of two compatriots: David Octerlony Dyce Sombre, who was elected for Sudbury in 1841; and Lal Mohan Ghose, who ran as a Liberal candidate for Deptford just a few years before Naoroji. Even so, Naoroji's accomplishment—i.e., election to the House of Commons as the spokesman for a colonial territory that many contemporaries, even those who were sympathetic to the cause of India, scarcely recognized as a legitimate nation, let alone a viable electoral constituency—remains one of the last untold narratives in the high political history of the Victorian period. This omission persists despite the availability of information on Naoroji's career in Britain through the work of Rozina Visram and others, not to mention the attention given to it in the contemporary Victorian press. More remarkable still, Naoroji's bid for parliamentary representation as an Indian for “India” remains obscure despite recent attempts to understand how thoroughly empire helped to constitute “domestic” politics and society across the long nineteenth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)632-661
Number of pages30
JournalComparative Studies in Society and History
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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