The long hold of the idea that ‘India is the land of villages’ on the imaginations of politicians, policy makers and scholars alike was a result not just of the numerical preponderance of the village, but because it represented the space of an organic, unsullied authenticity. Needless to say, in many accounts, well into the late twentieth century, the authenticity was only made possible by relinquishing a claim to the turbulence of history, and indeed on ‘modernity’ itself. The Indian city in the period of colonial rule, on the contrary, became a heaving, undisciplined monster, the site of a corrupting modernity, illegitimate and even unauthentic in its form. Apart from the monumental cities of Delhi or Lucknow, and some attention to ‘temple’ towns, most monographs on modern Indian cities written in the last 60 years remained without a legible past and were the work largely of geographers or sociologists. Those early pioneers who explored the history of the modern Indian city on its own terms, such as Narayani Gupta, Mariam Dossal or Veena Oldenburg, were lonely outcrops in a vast field of historical works that were largely rooted in the countryside. The peasant and the village, rather than the worker and the city, occupied centre-stage in the most important phases of post-independence Indian historiography. Since the history of Indian nationalism gripped the scholars of the immediate post-independence years, and economic history powered by Marxism informed the next phase of writing (both of which were enormously productive lines of enquiry), the Indian city was embedded in works that traced either the fate of anti-colonial nationalism or the broader trajectories of labour and capital. The innovative approaches of the Subaltern Studies collective from the early 1980s drew historiographic attention once more to the rebellious peasant and rural communities or mentalities.