This paper traces the thought and career of Dadabhai Naoroji, arguably the most significant Indian nationalist leader in the pre-Gandhian era. Naoroji (1825-1917) gave the Indian National Congress a concrete political goal in 1906 when he declared its objective to be self-government or swaraj. I identify three distinct phases in the development of his political thought. In the first phase of his career, lasting from the mid1860s until the mid-1880s, Naoroji posited the “drain of wealth” theory, which argued that British colonialism was dramatically impoverishing India by siphoning off its resources. Naoroji embedded a political corollary into his economic ideas, arguing that empowering Indians through political reform was the only way to stop the drain. As early as 1884, Naoroji declared that the ultimate objective of such reform was Indian self-government. Naoroji contended that the best chance for achieving political reform lay through influencing the British Parliament. In the second stage of his career, beginning in 1886, Naoroji took up this task by contesting a parliamentary seat. He constructed a broad alliance among various progressive British leader’s Irish home rulers, socialists, and women’s rights activists and relied upon them and Indian allies to win election to the House of Commons in 1892. In Parliament, Naoroji pushed for the implementation of simultaneous civil service examinations, which he envisaged as the first step toward Indian self-government. Naoroji’s time in the Commons, however, was brief and disappointing, and in the third and final phase of his career, beginning in 1895, he radicalized considerably. He propounded his views on Indian poverty with renewed force while strengthening his ties with socialists and anti-imperialists in Britain and abroad. Concluding that imperialism was inherently economically exploitative, Naoroji declared that only swaraj could stop the drain of wealth.