Civil Services Mains | History Syllabus | Latest Notification

history upsc syllabus
Written by Dr. SS

UPSC History optional syllabus is here. This subject for the IAS Mains exam consists of two papers. Paper ONE begins with an early ancient history and runs up to the Eighteenth century. Paper TWO starts with the Europeans arrival in India and extends up to the entire modern Indian History. This optional paper does not only cover Indian independence and but also goes up to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1990.

 To appear in UPSC Civil Services Mains exam, you need to have complete awareness about  UPSC Mains Syllabus and exam pattern.  To get complete information, you can check the given links.

upsc history optional syllabus



Sources: Archaeological sources: Excavation, Exploration, epigraphy, numismatics, monuments

Literary sources: Indigenous: Primary and secondary; scientific literature, Greek and poetry, literature, literature in regional languages, religious literature.  Foreign accounts: andChiandChinese,Arab writers.

Pre-history and Proto-history:

Geographical factors; gathering and hunting and (paleolithic and mesolithic); Beginning of agriculture (neolithic and chalcolithic).

Indus Valley Civilization: Origin, characteristics, decline, art and archi tecture, survival and significance.

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

Aryans and Vedic Period in History:

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

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

Mauryan Empire : Pillars of the Mauryan Empire, Chandragupta, Ashoka, Kautilya and Arthashastra;  Concept of Dharma; Edicts; Polity, Economy ,Administration; Art, architecture and sculpture; External contacts; Religion and  Spread of religion; Literature. Sungas and Kanvas , Disintegration of the empire.

 Post – Mauryan Period in History

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

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

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

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

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

History of Early Medieval India from 750-1200: –

Polity: Major political developments in North India and the Peninsula, origin and the rise of The Cholas:  Rajputs -: administration, village economy and society – Agrarian economy and urban settlements ,“Indian Feudalism” – – Trade and commerce – Society: Condition of women – Indian science and technology,the status of the Brahman and the new social order .

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

The Thirteenth Century: – Establishment of the Delhi Sultanate: The Ghurian invasions – factors behind Ghurian success – Social, Economic  and cultural consequences – Delhi Sultanate and its foundation  and early Turkish Sultans – Consolidation: The rule of Balban and Iltutmish .

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

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

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

The Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Century – Regional cultural specificities – Society and Culture: – Literary traditions – Provincial architecture – culture, Society, literature and the arts in Vijayanagara Empire.

Akbar: – Conquests and consolidation of the Empire – Establishment of Mansab and Jagir  systems – Rajput policy – Evolution of religious and social outlook, Court patronage of art and technology, theory of Sulh-i-kul and religious policy .

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

Society and Economy  in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: – Population, agricultural production, craft production – Towns, commerce with Europe through Dutch, French and English  companies : a trade revolution – Indian mercantile classes, insurance ,banking and credit systems – Condition of women, condition of peasants, Evolution of the Sikh community and the Khalsa Panth

Culture in the Mughal Empire: – Persian histories and study of other literature – Hindi and other religious literature – Mughal painting , Mughal architecture – – Provincial architecture and painting – Science and technology, Classical music.

The Eighteenth Century: – Factors responsible for the decline of the Mughal Empire – The regional principalities: Bengal ,Nizam’s Deccan, Awadh – Maratha ascendancy under the Peshwas – The Maratha financial and  fiscal and system – Emergence of Afghan Power, Battle of Panipat:1761 – culture and economy ,State of politics, on the eve of the British conquest

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UPSC Mains History Optional Syllabus


European Penetration in Indian History:

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

British Expansion in Indian History:

Bengal – Mir Kasim and  Mir Jafar , The Battle of Buxar; The Marathas; Mysore; The three Anglo-Maratha Wars; The Punjab.

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

Economic Influence  of British Colonial Rule: (a) Land revenue settlements in British India; Ryotwari Settlement , The Permanent Settlement;; Mahalwari Settlement; Economic impact of the revenue arrangements; Rise of landless agrarian labourers; Commercialization of agriculture , Impoverishment of the rural society.

(b) Dislocation of traditional trade and commerce;; Decline of traditional crafts; De-industrialisation, Drain of wealth; Economic transformation of India; communication network and  Railroad and including tele-graph and postal services; ; European business enterprise and its limitations, Famine and poverty in the rural interior.

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial India and Constitutional Developments  between 1858 and 1935

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

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

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

Caste and Ethnicity after 1947; Dalit movements, Backward castes and tribes in post-colonial electoral politics.

Economic development and political change; the politics of planning and rural reconstruction; ; Land reforms , Progress of science , Ecology and environmental policy in post – colonial India.

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

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

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

Nation-State System: (i) 19th century and Rise of Nationalism  (ii) Nationalism: state-building in Italy and Germany  (iii) Disintegration of Empires  and impact of  the emergence of nationalities across the world.

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

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

World Wars and related History:

(i) 1st and 2nd World Wars and their  Societal implications (ii) World War I: study of Causes and consequences (iii) World War II: detailed discussion of Causes and consequence

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

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

Decolonization and Underdevelopment: (i) Factors constraining development: Africa, Latin America, Unification of Europe: (i) Post War Foundations: NATO and European Community (ii) Consolidation and Expansion of European Community (iii) Emergence of European Union.

Disintegration of Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World: (i) Factors responsible for the collapse of Soviet communism and the Soviet Union, 1985-1991 (ii) Political Changes in Eastern Europe 1989-2001. (iii) End of the cold war and US ascendancy in the World as the only superpower.

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