Study Material

Best Books to study for Ancient history for UPSC Exams

History is a crucial subject for your UPSC’s IAS examination. Studying history is a fun process as well as a great learning...

Greeta Sulochana Written by Greeta Sulochana · 2 min read >
ancient history books for upsc

History is a crucial subject for your UPSC’s IAS examination. Studying history is a fun process as well as a great learning experience for you to know about our past, and culture of the days gone by.

While studying history, as with every other subject, you must try to align yourself well with the concepts that underlie the major happenings you’re reading about.

In this article, we will explore the syllabus and top ancient history books you must refer to for UPSC examinations.

From The Prelims Perspective

The majority of questions asked in your prelims will fall under the following topics: –

  • Indian Culture
  • Indian Art
  • Ancient Indian History
  • Medieval Indian History
  • Modern Indian History

Now that we’ve seen the syllabus, let us explore the best reference books that will help you in your preparation : –

The NCERT textbook will suffice to prepare for your prelims. These textbooks are a great source for gaining a foundational knowledge regarding the questions asked in the exams.

NCERT Textbooks

  • Modern India By Bipan Chandra
  • Medieval India By Satish Chandra
  • Ancient India By Rs Sharma
  • An Introduction To Indian Art
  • Crafts Traditions Of India
  • Theme In Indian History- I, III And III

From The Mains Perspective

In the mains examination, you will be required to give answers in the essay format. To write a good essay, it is essential to have broad knowledge of your subject.

Let us see the syllabus for UPSC mains : –

  • Indian culture : salient features of literature, architecture and art forms (from ancient to modern era)
  • Modern Indian history : important people, crucial events, and issues from the mid 18th century till date
  • The freedom struggle : stages, major personalities and their contributions
  • Post independence era : consolidation and reorganization of india
  • World history : colonization, world wars, industrial revolution, rebuilding national boundaries, political philosophies and decolonization

The best books to refer for the above mentioned topics are as follows: –

Book NameAuthor
History Of Modern WorldMathur And Jain
India After GandhiRamchandra Guha
History Of Modern India (Popular Choice For Modern History)Bipan Chandra
India’s Struggle For Independence (Popular Choice For Modern History)Bipan Chandra
India’s Ancient Past (Crucial For Ancient History)R S Sharma
Indian Art And CultureNitin Singhania
The Wonder That Was India A L Bhasham
Mastering Modern World HistoryNorman Lowe

From The Ias Mains Optional Perspective

When choosing your optional, always go for a subject that you would enjoy studying. These topics will require you to remember the crucial events and dates; you do not have to go through long theories, concepts and principles.

A major portion of the history optional syllabus will be covered in the general studies section for mains as well.

The history optional is categorized into paper I and paper II. Each category carries 250 marks.

Paper I Syllabus- History Optional

  • Indus Valley Civilization
  • Archaeological Sources
  • Pre-history & Proto-history
  • Megalithic Cultures
  • Vedic Period And Aryan Period
  • The Mahajanapadas Period
  • The Spread Of Buddhism And Jainism
  • The Mauryan Empire
  • The Indo-greeks, The Sakas, The Kushanas, The Western Kshatrapas From The Post Mauryan Period
  • Early Society In South India And Eastern India
  • The Vardhanas, The Guptas And The Vakatakas
  • The Gupta Era- Regional States
  • The Early Indian Cultural History
  • The Early Medieval India (750-1200)
  • The Cultural Traditions Of India – Art, Literature, Architecture, Temple Architecture, Painting And Sculpture
  • The Delhi Sultanate And Turkish Sultans
  • The 13tha And 14th Century – Society, Economy And Culture
  • The 15th And 16th Century – Society, Economy And Culture
  • The 17th Century- Mughal Empire And Its Culture
  • Akbar
  • The 18th Century – Society, Economy And Culture

Paper II Syllabus- History Optional

  • The European Diffusion Into India
  • The British Extension In India
  • The Early Composition Of The Raj
  • The British Colonial Rule And Its Impact
  • The Social And Cultural Developments
  • The social And Religious Reforms And Movements In Bengal
  • India’s Reaction To British Rule
  • The Birth Of Indian Nationalism
  • The Constitutional Developments In Colonial India
  • The Gandhian Nationalism
  • Consolidation Of India
  • The Politics Of Separatism
  • The Economic Development And Political Changes
  • The Modern Ideas And Enlightenment
  • Industrialization
  • The Origins Of Modern Politics
  • Colonialism And Imperialism
  • The Nation-state System
  • The Revolution And Counter-revolution

Let us explore the best reference books for your UPSC history mains optional preparation: –

Book NameAuthor
Mastering Modern World History (Popular Choice For World History)Norman Lowe
The Penguin History Of Early India: From The Origins To Ad 1300Romila Thapar
A New Look At Modern Indian History : From 1707 To The Modern TimesB L Grover And Alka Mehta
History Of Medieval IndiaSatish Chandra
Age Of Revolution (1789-1848)Eric Hobsbawm
Historyof Modern IndiaBipan Chandra
Age Of Capital : 1848-1875Eric Hobsbawm
India’s Ancient PastRam Sharan Sharma

We hope all your doubts regarding the History syllabus as well as the right ancient history books for UPSC have been settled.

Once again, remember, history is a vast yet interesting subject to study. You must read your chapters to understand the underlying concepts, and make short notes of crucial dates, events and people.

Good luck.

Written by Greeta Sulochana
Greeta Sulochana is a content evangelist with a flair for compelling creative writing. She has penned down her thoughts in poetry and prose since the past five years, and has catered her skills to the Indian and international audiences. She started out as an advertising intern with Grey worldwide, and is now a full-fledged writer in passion and profession, who has worked for major national brands. Profile

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