History Optional

History Optional



1. Sources Archaeological sources: Exploration, excavation, epigraphy, numismatics, monuments. Literary sources: Indigenous: Primary and secondary; poetry, scientific literature, literature, literature in regional languages, religious literature. Foreign account: Greek, Chinese and Arab writers.

2. Pre-history and Proto-history: Geographical factors; hunting and gathering (palaeolithic and mesolithic); Beginning of agriculture (neolithic and chalcolithic).

3. Indus Valley Civilization: Origin, date, extent, characteristics-decline, survival and significance, art and architecture.

4. Megalithic Cultures: Distribution of pastoral and farming cultures outside the Indus, Development of community life, Settlements, Development of agriculture, Crafts, Pottery, and Iron industry.

5. Aryans and Vedic Period: Expansions of Aryans in India: Vedic Period: Religious and philosophic literature; Transformation from Rig Vedic period to the later Vedic period; Political, social and economical life; Significance of the Vedic Age; Evolution of Monarchy and Varna system.

6. Period of Mahajanapadas: Formation of States (Mahajanapada): Republics and monarchies; Rise of urban centres; Trade routes; Economic growth; Introduction of coinage; Spread of Jainism and Buddism; Rise of Magadha and Nandas. Iranian and Macedonian invasions and their impact.

 7. Mauryan Empire: Foundation of the Mauryan Empire, Chandragupta, Kautilya and Arthashastra; Ashoka; Concept of Dharma; Edicts; Polity, Administration, Economy; Art, architecture and sculpture; External contacts; Religion; Spread of religion; Literature. The disintegration of the empire; sungas and Kanvas.

8. Post-Mauryan Period (Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Kushanas, Western Kshatrapas): Contact with the outside world; growth of urban centres, economy, coinage, development of religions, Mahayana, social conditions, art, architecture, culture, literature and science.

9. Early State and Society in Eastern India, Deccan and South India: Kharavela, The Satavahanas, the Tamil States of the Sangam Age; Administration, Economy, land grants, coinage, trade guilds and urban centres; Buddhist centres; Sangam literature and culture; Art and architecture.

10. Guptas, Vakatakas and Vardhanas: Polity and administration, Economic conditions, Coinage of the Guptas, Land grants, Decline of urban centres, Indian feudalism, Caste system, Position of women, Education and educational institutions; Nalanda, Vikramshila and Vallabhi, Literature, scientific literature, art and architecture.

11. The regional States during Gupta Era: The Kadambas, Pallavas, Chalukyas of Badami; Polity and Administration, Trade guilds, Literature; growth of Vaishnava and Saiva religions. Tamil Bhakti movement, Shankaracharya; Vedanta; Institutions of temple and temple architecture; Palas, Senas, Rashtrakutas, Paramaras, Polity and administration; Cultural aspects. Arab conquest of Sind; Alberuni, The Chaluky as of Kalyana, Cholas, Hoysalas, Pandyas; Polity and Administration; Local Government; Growth of art and architecture, religious sects, Institution of temple and Mathas, Agraharas, education and literature, economy and society.

12. Themes in Early Indian Cultural History: Languages and texts, major stages in the evolution of art and architecture, major philosophical thinkers and schools, ideas in Science and Mathematics.

13. Early Medieval India, 750-1200: —Polity: Major political developments in Northern India and the peninsula, origin and the rise of Rajputs. —The Cholas: administration, village economy and society “Indian Feudalism”. —Agrarian economy and urban settlements. —Trade and commerce. —Society: the status of the Brahman and the new social order. —Condition of women. —Indian science and technology.

14. Cultural Traditions in India, 750-1200: —Philosophy: Skankaracharya and Vedanta, Ramanuja and Vishishtadvaita, Madhva and Brahma-Mimansa. —Religion: Forms and features of religion, Tamil devotional cult, growth of Bhakti, Islam and its arrival in India, Sufism. —Literature: Literature in Sanskrit, growth of Tamil literature, literature in the newly developing languages, Kalhan's Rajtarangini, Alberuni's India. —Art and Architecture: Temple architecture, sculpture, painting.

15. The Thirteenth Century: —Establishment of the Delhi Sultanate: The Gurian invasions - factors behind Ghurian success. —Economic, Social and cultural consequences. —Foundation of Delhi Sultanate and early Turkish Sultans. —Consolidation: The rule of Iltutmish and Balban.

16. The Fourteenth Century: —“The Khalji Revolution”. —Alauddin Khalji: Conquests and territorial expansion, agrarian and economic measure. —Muhammad Tughluq: Major projects, agrarian measures, the bureaucracy of Muhammad Tughluq. —Firuz Tugluq: Agrarian measures, achievements in civil engineering and public works, decline of the Sultanate, foreign contacts and Ibn Battuta's account.

17. Society, Culture and Economy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: —Society: composition of rural society, ruling classes, town dwellers, women, religious classes, caste and slavery under the Sultanate, Bhakti movement, Sufi movement. —Culture: Persian literature, literature in the regional languages of North India, literature in the languages of South India, Sultanate architecture and new structural forms, painting, the evolution of a composite culture. —Economy: Agricultural Production, the rise of urban economy and non-agricultural production, trade and commerce.

18. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century-Political Developments and Economy: —Rise of Provincial Dynasties: Bengal, Kashmir (Zainul Abedin), Gujarat. —Malwa, Bahmanids. —The Vijayanagara Empire. —Lodis. —Mughal Empire, First phase: Babur, Humayun. —The Sur Empire: Sher Shah’s administration. —Portuguese colonial enterprise, Bhakti and Sufi Movements.

19. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century- Society and culture: —Regional cultures specificities. —Literary traditions. —Provincial architectural. —Society, culture, literature and the arts in the Vijayanagara Empire.

20. Akbar: —Conquests and consolidation of empire. —Establishment of jagir and mansab systems. —Rajput policy. —Evolution of religious and social outlook. Theory of Sulh-i-kul and religious policy. —Court patronage of art and technology.

21. Mughal Empire in the Seventeenth Century: —Major administrative policies of Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. —The Empire and the Zamindars. —Religious policies of Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. —Nature of the Mughal State. —Late Seventeenth-Century crisis and the revolts. —The Ahom kingdom. —Shivaji and the early Maratha Kingdom.

22. Economy and society, in the 16th and 17th Centuries: —Population Agricultural and craft production. —Towns, commerce with Europe through Dutch, English and French companies: a trade revolution. —Indian mercantile classes. Banking, insurance and credit systems. —Conditions of peasants, Condition of Women. —Evolution of the Sikh community and the Khalsa Panth

23. Culture during Mughal Empire: —Persian histories and other literature —Hindi and religious literature. —Mughal architecture. —Mughal painting. —Provincial architecture and painting. —Classical music. —Science and technology.

24. The Eighteenth Century: —Factors for the decline of the Mughal Empire. —The regional principalities: Nizam’s Deccan, Bengal, Awadh. —Maratha ascendancy under the Peshwas. —The Maratha fiscal and financial system. —The emergence of Afghan power Battle of Panipat, 1761. —State of, political, cultural and economic, on eve of the British conquest.


1. European Penetration into India: The Early European Settlements; The Portuguese and the Dutch; The English and the French East India Companies; Their struggle for supremacy; Carnatic Wars; Bengal-The conflict between the English and the Nawabs of Bengal; Siraj and the English; The Battle of Plassey; Significance of Plassey.

2. British Expansion in India: Bengal-Mir Jafar and Mir Kasim; The Battle of Buxar; Mysore; The Marathas; The three Anglo-Maratha Wars; Punjab.

3. Early Structure of the British Raj: The Early administrative structure; From diarchy to direct control; The Regulating Act (1773); The Pitt's India Act (1784); The Charter Act (1833); The Voice of free trade and the changing character of British colonial rule; The English utilitarian and India.

4. Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule: (a) Land revenue settlements in British India; The Permanent Settlement; Ryotwari Settlement; Mahalwari Settlement; Economic impact of the revenue arrangements; Commercialization of agriculture; Rise of landless agrarian labourers; Impoverishment of the rural society. (b) Dislocation of traditional trade and commerce; De-industrialisation; Decline of traditional crafts; Drain of wealth; Economic transformation of India; Railroad and communication network including telegraph and postal services; Famine and poverty in the rural interior; European business enterprise and its limitations.

5. Social and Cultural Developments: The state of indigenous education, its dislocation; Orientalist-Anglicist controversy, The introduction of western education in India; The rise of press, literature and public opinion; The rise of modern vernacular literature; Progress of science; Christian missionary activities in India.

6. Social and Religious Reform Movements in Bengal and other areas: Ram Mohan Roy, The Brahmo Movement; Devendranath Tagore; Iswarchandra Vidyasagar; The Young Bengal Movement; Dayananda Saraswati; The social reform movements in India including Sati, widow remarriage, child marriage etc.; The contribution of Indian renaissance to the growth of modern India; Islamic revivalism-the Feraizi and Wahabi Movements.

7. Indian Response to British Rule: Peasant movement and tribal uprisings in the 18th and 19th centuries including the Rangpur Dhing (1783), the Kol Rebellion (1832), the Mopla Rebellion in Malabar (1841-1920), the Santal Hul (1855), Indigo Rebellion (1859-60), Deccan Uprising (1875) and the Munda Ulgulan (1899-1900); The Great Revolt of 1857 —Origin, character, causes of failure, the consequences; The shift in the character of peasant uprisings in the post- 1857 period; the peasant movements of the 1920s and 1930s.

8. Factors leading to the birth of Indian Nationalism; Politics of Association; The Foundation of the Indian National Congress; The Safety-valve thesis relating to the birth of the Congress; Programme and objectives of Early Congress; the social composition of early Congress leadership; the Moderates and Extremists; The Partition of Bengal (1905); The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal; the economic and political aspects of Swadeshi Movement; The beginning of revolutionary extremism in India.

9. Rise of Gandhi; Character of Gandhian nationalism; Gandhi's popular appeal; Rowlatt Satyagraha; the Khilafat Movement; the Non-cooperation Movement; National politics from the end of the Non-cooperation movement to the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement; the two phases of the Civil Disobedience Movement; Simon Commission; The Nehru Report; the Round Table Conferences; Nationalism and the Peasant Movements; Nationalism and Working-class movements; Women and Indian youth and students in Indian politics (1885-1947); the election of 1937 and the formation of ministries; Cripps Mission; the Quit India Movement; the Wavell Plan; The Cabinet Mission.

10. Constitutional Developments in Colonial India between 1858 and 1935.

11. Other strands in the National Movement. The Revolutionaries: Bengal, the Punjab, Maharashtra, U.P. the Madras Presidency, Outside India. The Left; The Left within the Congress: Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, the Congress Socialist Party; the Communist Party of India, other left parties.

12. Politics of Separatism; the Muslim League; the Hindu Mahasabha; Communalism and the politics of partition; Transfer of power; Independence.

13. Consolidation as a Nation; Nehru's Foreign Policy; India and her neighbours (1947-1964); The linguistic reorganisation of States (1935-1947); Regionalism and regional inequality; Integration of Princely States; Princes in electoral politics; the Question of National Language.

14. Caste and Ethnicity after 1947; Backward Castes and Tribes in post-colonial electoral politics; Dalit movements. 15. Economic development and political change; Land reforms; the politics of planning and rural reconstruction; Ecology and environmental policy in post-colonial India; Progress of Science.

16. Enlightenment and Modern ideas: (i) Major ideas of Enlightenment: Kant, Rousseau. (ii) Spread of Enlightenment in the colonies. (iii) Rise of socialist ideas (up to Marx); spread of Marxian Socialism.

17. Origins of Modern Politics : (i) European States System (ii) American Revolution and the Constitution (iii) French Revolution and Aftermath, 1789-1815 (iv) American Civil War concerning Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery. (v) British Democratic politics, 1815-1850: Parliamentary Reformers, Free Traders, Chartists.

18. Industrialization : (i) English Industrial Revolution: Causes and Impact on Society. (ii) Industrialization in other countries: USA, Germany, Russia, Japan. (iii) Industrialization and Globalization.

19. Nation-State System : (i) Rise of Nationalism in the 19th century. (ii) Nationalism: State-building in Germany and Italy. (iii) The disintegration of Empires in the face of the emergence of nationalities across the World.

20. Imperialism and Colonialism : (i) South and South-East Asia. (ii) Latin America and South Africa. (iii) Australia. (iv) Imperialism and free trade: Rise of neo-imperialism.

21. Revolution and Counter-Revolution : (i) 19th Century European revolutions. (ii) The Russian Revolution of 1917-1921. (iii) Fascist Counter-Revolution, Italy and Germany. (iv) The Chinese Revolution of 1949.

22. World Wars : (i) 1st and 2nd World Wars as Total Wars: Societal implications. (ii) World War I: Causes and Consequences. (iii) World War II: Causes and Consequences.

23. The World after World War II: (i) Emergence of Two power blocs. (ii) The emergence of the Third World and non-alignment (iii) UNO and global disputes.

24. Liberation from Colonial Rule : (i) Latin America-Bolivar. (ii) Arab World-Egypt. (iii) Africa-Apartheid to Democracy. (iv) South-East Asia-Vietnam.

25. Decolonization and Underdevelopment : (i) Factors constraining development; Latin America, Africa.

26. Unification of Europe : (i) Post War Foundations; NATO and European Community. (ii) Consolidation and Expansion of European Community (iii) European Union.

27. Disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World : (i) Factors leading to the collapse of Soviet Communism and the Soviet Union, 1985-1991. (ii) Political Changes in East Europe 1989-2001. (iii) End of the Cold War and US Ascendancy in the World as the lone superpower.

How to prepare for History optional for IAS?

History is one of the optional subjects offered by UPSC for the civil service main exam. It is an interesting subject if a candidate studies it with deep interest. It only requires basic knowledge about various events that had occurred in the past. So if a candidate is keen to know about them then he/she should definitely go for this optional. Given below are a few strategies that can be used during the preparation.

1. Devote proper time to the subject. History is divided into the ancient, medieval, and modern parts. These three parts are really lengthy and need a lot of time to cover. So to prepare well and understand all the events in a flow devote a good amount of time to the preparation. Start your preparation after the preliminary exam so that you have enough time to prepare and learn all the important facts and figures. Also, divide your preparation month into different time slots and assign each time slot for a particular part of history. Like you can assign one month for ancient, another month for medieval and then remaining month for modern history. In this way, the whole of the syllabus will be covered in a given time framework.

2. Start from reading NCERT books. These books are helpful to understand the basics. Also, these textbooks are suggested by every successful candidate to start the preparation by using them. They lay the foundation for other important concepts. In this way, you will be able to develop knowledge about various wars and important happening at that time. It further paves the way for conceptual clarity. Also, these NECRT books are already studied by you during the school time. So it becomes easier to understand things.

3. Be prepared for the worst. As the paper pattern might change. So don’t limit yourself only towards battle and wars that were fought. Try to expand your horizons. Understand everything from the perspective also like learning about art and culture, economic lives, the status of women during the ancient and modern times, and scientific developments that took place. In this way study the subject with a holistic view and widen your knowledge. Also, try to understand the chronology of the events. In addition to this most of the events occur in the chain so connect one event with the other.

4. Unlike other humanities subjects, history optional is not scoring. But if you prepare properly with the right strategy then you can expect a good score. Also the marks you score depend upon how well you write the answer. If you have written all the relevant dates, years, facts, and figures then there will be no scope left for mark deduction. In this way, you can definitely have high marks in the exam. Also many times due to a lot of years and dates you might get confused so it’s better to skip these confusing dates and avoid writing them down in the exam.

5. If you notice the trend of last year's papers then you will notice that history has turned out to be a logical subject and based on reasoning. You don’t need to cram every single fact. You have to understand the chronology of events as a whole and remember how it occurred, why it occurred, and what the consequences were. You need to do an analysis of the factual information and interpret it in your own language. Also syllabus of history optional is vast but if everything is done in the concise form then the journey of preparation becomes easier.

6. History is predominantly a static subject. So you don’t need to depend on current affairs. It is important to be updated with the latest development of the country and the world’s affairs being a UPSC aspirant. But from the exam point of view, in history optional, you need to well verse with the static part. Thus you need to clear your basic knowledge of the subject. Be thorough with all the major developments in every part of history. Make sure you don’t skip any significant point. Since its vast subject but if you cover everything in a proper manner then the preparation becomes fun.

7. In addition to making sure you answer all questions using points and try to use flowcharts to explain important topics. Flowcharts should be brief and self-explanatory; this will act as an advantage for you since this flowchart will help you to fetch more marks. If the examiner sees the diagram and flowchart he/she gets the impression that the candidate has enough knowledge about the answer and you can definitely expect high marks for that particular question. Try to implement this throughout the paper and include all additional facts and figures.

8. There is an ample amount of study material available for history optional. Try to explore all kinds of reference books and study material. This will indeed boost your preparation and make your concepts stronger and clearer. Also, try to use a reference book by renowned authors that provide correct information without any errors. As many a time, most of the books have discrepancies about various events. Some have mistakes in the dates and others have mistakes about the factual information. So before buying any reference book, check whether it is reliable or not. Since wrong information may lead to mistakes in the final exam.

9. If possible try to join all India level mock test series. Candidates can join any kind of online or offline coaching institute for IAS preparation. Both of them will offer the mock test series. These mock test series catalyzes the preparation. They offer an atmosphere similar to that of the final exam. After attempting these test series a person gets hang of like what kind of questions can be asked in the final exam. This help to deal with different sort of questions. Hence a candidate becomes more comfortable and confident when he/she gives the final examination.