Shock City of Twentieth-Century India
Howard Spodek
Distribution: World excluding South Asia
Publication date: 4/5/2011
ISBN: 978-0-253-00083-5
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In the 20th century, Ahmedabad was India's "shock city." It was the place where many of the nation's most important developments occurred first and with the greatest intensity—from Gandhi’s political and labor organizing, through the growth of textile, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries, to globalization and the sectarian violence that marked the turn of the new century. Events that happened there resonated throughout the country, for better and for worse. Howard Spodek describes the movements that swept the city, telling their story through the careers of the men and women who led them.

Author Bio

Howard Spodek is Professor of History at Temple University. He is author of The World’s History and editor (with Doris Meth Srinivasan) of Urban Form and Meaning in South Asia.


"The strength of this first-rate, well-illustrated study is its thorough grounding in source material, an intimate knowledge of people and places, and its connections between Ahmedabad and such personalities as Gandhi, Vallabbhai Patel, and Anasuyaben Sarabhia . . . Highly recommended." —Choice

"[T]his is a story well told, a lucid and readable book about an interesting and complex city." —

"This excellent study is the culmination of a half-century of research on a city in which Spodek first lived in 1964 and to which he continues to return. Spodek's lovingly told yet critical assessment of Ahmedabad reflects his deep affection for the place and many of its prominent twentieth-century residents." —
American Historical Review

"[T]his is a story well told, a lucid and readable book about an interesting and complex city." —The Hindu

"A major contribution to the history of modern India and to urban studies in general. . . . A scholar's model for future historical studies of cities, especially those in the developing nations." —Owen M. Lynch, C. F. Noyes Professor Emeritus, New York University

"Brings into focus the forces of social, political, economic, and cultural change which have transformed India in the 20th century." —Lynn Hollen Lees, University of Pennsylvania

Lucidly written, beautifully illustrated and meticulously supported with facts and figures, this is an important addition to the academic literature on Gujarat." —Contemporary South Asia

"[A]n important contribution to the urban histories of Asia and a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Ahmedabad and Gujarat… [T]his is a compelling account of Ahmedabad, ably written by a historian whose long engagement with and affection for the city shine through without clouding his intellectual insights. Putting a human face on the city’s leading figures who built the city and its institutions, caused or led movements, maintained calm or provoked violence, Spodek takes us on an engrossing rollercoaster ride through Ahmedabad’s turbulent and complicated history in the twentieth century....

" —

"Ahmedabad . . . provides an important contribution to the field as both an examination of a place conspicuously underrepresented in the urban history of the region and as an excellent piece of urban history that not only greatly informs our understanding of South Asian development, but also has application to a number of cities globally." —H-Urban

"Because it is written in such a lucid and lively manner and because it treats so many of the critical themes of twentieth-century Indian history, Ahmedabad is also one of the books I would most strongly recommend to anyone who wants to understand South Asia’s recent past." —Business History Review

"Ahmedabad: Shock City of Twentieth-Century India is an important and timely history of a city that has re-emerged at the forefront of debates around India's model of economic growth." —Urban History

"[This book] will be of interest to scholars of urban history, local and national politics, and popular movements in South Asia." —JRNL ASIAN STUDIES

"A city of extraordinary economic growth and innovation, horrendous communal violence and appalling poverty; Howard Spodek justifiably calls Ahmedabad a 'shock city' in his . . . book Ahmedabad: Shock City of Twentieth Century India." —IIAS Newsletter (Intnl Inst Asian Studies)

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Table of Contents



Part 1. The Gandhian Era, 1915–1950
1. Gandhi Chooses Ahmedabad
2. Gandhi Assembles New Leadership
3. Vallabhbhai Patel Builds the Congress Political Machine
4. Anasuyaben Sarabhai Engages Ahmedabad's Working Classes

Part 2. The Westernizing City, 1950–1980
5. Ambalal Sarabhai and Kasturbhai Lalbhai Build an Industrialized, Westernized, Prosperous, Cultured, World-Class Company Town
6. Indulal Yagnik Challenges the Gandhian Consensus

Part 3. Creativity and Chaos: Economic Restructuring—Political Violence—Culture Conflict, 1969–
7. Communal Violence, 1969
8. Chimanbhai Patel Provokes the Nav Nirman Movement, 1974
9. The Mills Close, the TLA Falters, and the Municipal Corporation Goes Broke
10. Madhavsinh Solanki Invokes the Politics of Caste and Class
11. Ahmedabad 2000: The Capitalist City Out of Control
12. Godhra, the Gujarat Pogrom, and the Consequences