Discovering Britain’s first Asian MP | Letter

David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre was the first, not Dadabhai Naoroji, says Tony Berrett

David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre (1808-51) was the first Asian MP, not Dadabhai Naoroji, as Dr Peter Chadha and Zaki Cooper claim (Letters, 25 October). Dyce Sombre was elected for the borough of Sudbury in 1841 and subsequently expelled for fraud at that election. The story is now widely known, being the subject of Michael H Fisher’s The Inordinately Strange Life of Dyce Sombre (2010).

Dyce Sombre may be regarded as a more controversial character than Naoroji, but that is no reason to forget history.

More uncertainly, there is also Charles Cecil Martyn, also elected in 1841, for Southampton: his election, too, was annulled on the ground of bribery – but he was elected, and his mother was a “woman of colour” in India. It is not clear how far he was identified, or identified himself, as Asian.
Tony Berrett
London

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