Patel is interested in the emergence of the Indian nationalist movement, especially its less-studied roots in Bombay and western India. His dissertation, completed in May 2015, examines the political thought of Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917), perhaps the most prominent Indian nationalist figure prior to Mohandas K. Gandhi. Patel investigates how Naoroji pioneered the concept of swaraj, or Indian self-government, while exposing the deleterious economic consequences of British colonial rule on the subcontinent. Patel is also interested in the political and economic history of the Parsis, a tiny yet wealthy and influential community concentrated in Gujarat and Bombay. He has written about the community's responses to Gandhi and the non-cooperation movement (1920-1922), as well as Parsi interest in Iran during the early Pahlavi regime.