The ?eld trial of home-based neonatal care was conducted in Gadchiroli, India during 1993 to 1998. Owing to its new approach and the success in reducing newborn mortality in a rural area, it has attracted considerable attention. In this article, we describe the background of the trial – the situation in 1990, why the problems of neonatal mortality and neonatal infection were selected for research, the area – Gadchiroli district – where the study was conducted, and the background work and philosophy of the organization, SEARCH, which conducted the study. This history and background will help readers understand the origins and the context of the ?eld trial and the subsequent research papers in this supplement. We also hope that sharing this will be of use to other researchers and program managers working with communities in developing countries.