Tale of the ‘Twin City’

Historicizing the Urban Form of Nagpur (1803-1936)

  • Isha R. Chouksey (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


The study attempts to analyse the applicability of global colonial theories at the grassroots levels through a case study of Nagpur. Nagpur was first the capital of Gond rulers, then the Marathas, and later the administrative headquarters for the Central Provinces in the colonial period. As the second capital of Maharashtra, Nagpur also continues to assert its position in the political realm in the postcolonial period. However, despite its prominence, there is an unusual gap in colonial records about the city. This study aims to fill these gaps and historicizes the formation of urban Nagpur. Categorizing key events in history based on archival sources under the three frameworks of colonial urban development, trade, and public culture, this study consolidates a cogent historical narrative especially by redrawing archival maps between 1818 and 1930 and linking them with important events, to reimagine the trajectory of urbanization. The study attempts to critically analyse spatial components from British governance: the administrative area, the railways, the cantonment, the civil lines, and the ‘buffer space’ to demonstrate how the emergence of a European environment distanced itself from the medieval city as a strategic defence mechanism. This buffer zone underwent transformation; the cordon sanitaire understood as that very component of colonial separation became the centre of trade and industrialization. This introduces the third entity in the development of urban Nagpur: its immigrant elites, and its labour force that complicates this urban form of the ‘twin cities’.


Colonialism, Urbanism, History, Nagpur, Mofussil