Interdisciplinarity has proved to be one of the enduring tenets of British urban history. As Fiona Kisby points out in her contribution to this special issue of Urban History, its centrality is enunciated in the agenda set by Jim Dyos in the 1960s, as the subject emerged as a self-conscious subdiscipline of British history, and in the editorials that launched this publication as a Yearbook and subsequently as a journal. The appeal of an interdisciplinary approach is that it allows those involved to transcend the straitjacket of traditional research and explore a given issue or subject from a multiplicity of angles. However, prioritizing such a methodology, though it might allow the intellectual high ground to be occupied temporarily, provides a real hostage to fortune, raising expectations that it often proves impossible to fulfil. Interdisciplinarity simply cuts against the dominant grain of academe. Where British urban historians have crossed the disciplinary barricades, they have tended to head in the direction of the social sciences (such as sociology, economics, geography and anthropology). A rapprochement with the arts (painting, film, literature, architecture, music, and the like) is less easy to discern. Yet with the growing interest in the last decade or so in cultural history the time is ripe to redress the balance. This music issue of Urban History, like that of August 1995 on ‘Art and the City’, can be seen as an attempt to do this. Its appearance coincides with the publication of a pioneering volume of essays, edited by Fiona Kisby, on Music and Musicians in Renaissance Cities and Towns, whose avowed aim is to ‘bring musicology within the sphere of urban history’. Though that collection is predominantly focused on western Europe (with six of the essays on the British Isles, six on the Continent, and one on South America) and on the years 1400 to 1650, it provides a model for how the agendas of musicologists and urban historians might be productively merged.