This article presses the case for planning theory to recognize the historicity of historical time, i.e. the argument that ideas about how the past, present, and future relate to each other are specific to particular life-worlds and cannot be treated as universal axioms. This argument emerges from a close analysis of Patrick Geddes’ stint as a town planner and public intellectual in the Indian subcontinent between 1915 and 1922. Geddes regarded both city and society as products of an evolutionary process led by citizens themselves, and his work has been praised for his deep respect for Indian traditions and sensitivity to the needs of the poor. Scholarly writing on Geddes’ work in India therefore reinforces the hagiographical depiction of Geddes as a tragically misunderstood visionary, rather than critically examining the limits of the theory of praxis contained in Geddes’ contributions to planning. In this revisionist account, I demonstrate the link between Geddes’ insistence on the continuity of historical time and his preference for “civics” (the realm of cooperative social action) over the conflict and contention inherent in “conventional politics”. In contrast, nationalist elites in India operated on a discontinuous conception of time because of the deep schisms in the public sphere constituted under colonial rule. As a result, the interpenetration of “civics” and “politics” was necessarily an important part of attempts by nationalist elites to improve the living conditions of the urban poor.