Are you preparing for the UPSC exam? Then you will definitely need books to study from. This article lists a few books that will help you attack the UPSC optional History syllabus as they are suited for it.

Good books will help you to understand the concept well and will test your skill. They will clear the concepts and make it easy for you to understand and you should be able to boost your scores.

UPSC Optional History Syllabus

The UPSC optional subject has 2 exams. Each of 250 marks. Students can choose from a list of 48 subjects. History is one of the most opted optional subjects. It is also a part of your prelims and mains exam. Covering your optional subject of history will help you cover it well in the general studies exam too.

History syllabus is divided into 4 parts for easier understanding:

  • Ancient Indian History
  • Medieval Indian History
  • Modern Indian History
  • World History

UPSC Optional History Syllabus Paper 1

The  UPSC optional history syllabus paper 1 is:

Chapters  Topics
Sources Archaeological sources

Literary sources

Prehistory and Proto History Geographical Factors

Beginning of hunting

Beginning of agriculture

Indus valley civilisation Its origin, survival, the reason for decline, features
Megalithic Creatures Distribution of pastoral and farming cultures outside the Indus. Development of settlements, poetry, agriculture and crafts
Aryans and Vedic Period Expansions of Aryans in India, the evolution of Vedas, monarchy and varna system
Period of Mahajanapadas Formation of Mahajanpadas, republics and monarchies, the spread of Jainism and Buddhism.
Mauryan Empire Foundation and important rulers. Ashoka, Concept of Dharma, Spread of religion
Post- Mauryan Period Contact with the outside world, developments of religions, social conditions, growing economy
Early state and Society in Eastern India, Deccan and South India Tamils states of Sangam AGe, administration, economy, land grants, coinage
Guptas, Vakatakas, Vardhanas Polity and administration, important  rulers, caste system, a decline of urban centres, the position of women
Regional states during the Gupta period Polity, administration of Rashtrakutas, Kadambas, Pallavas
Themes in Early Indian Cultural History Languages, text, major stages in the evolution of art and architecture
Cultural Traditions in India 750-1200 Philosophy, Religions, Sufism, Literature
The Thirteenth century Establishment of Delhi Sultanate, Ghorian invasions
The Fourteenth Century The Khalji revolution, Muhammad Tughluq
Society and culture in the 13th and 14th centuries Society composition, ruling classes, women, religion. Culture followed, religion, literature
The 15th and 16th-century political Developments and Economy Rise of provincial dynasties- Bengal, Gujarat, Malwa, Kashmir
The 15th and 16th-century society and culture literary traditions, architectural changes, society culture and arts in the Vijayanagara Empire
Akbar Conquests, the establishment of Jagir and Marsab system, Rajput policy, the evolution of his religion
Mughal Empire in the 17th century Major administrative policies. The empires and Zamindars, Religious Policies
Economy and society in the 16th and 17th century Population, Agricultural production, craft production, towns, commerce
Culture in the Mughal Empire Hindi, Persian and other religious literature, Mughal architecture and paintings
The 18th Century Factors for the decline of Mughal Empire, Nizam’s Deccan, Awadh and Bengal, Rise of British Rule

Also Read: Best Preparation Method for Indian History

UPSC Optional History Syllabus Paper 2

The Syllabus for UPSC Optional History Syllabus Paper 2 is based on the following chapters:

  • European Penetration to India
  • British Expansion in India
  • Early Structure of British Raj
  • Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule
  • Social and Cultural Developments
  • Social and Religious Reform Movements in Bengal and Other Areas
  • Indian Response to British Rule
  • Factors leading to the Birth of Indian Nationalism
  • Rise of Gandhi
  • Constitutional Developments in Colonial India between 1858 and 1935
  • Another strand in the National Movement
  • Politics of Separatism and the Muslim League
  • Consolidation of a Nation and Nehru’s Foreign Policies, India and her Neighbours
  • Caste and Ethnicity after 1947
  • Industrialization
  • Origins of Modern Politics
  • Nation-State System
  • Imperialism and Colonialism
  • Revolution and Counter-Revolution
  • World Wars
  • The world after WWII
  • Liberation from Colonial Rulers
  • Decolonization and Underdevelopment
  • Unification of Europe
  • The disintegration of USSR and the Rise of Unipolar World

Best Books for History Optional

Now studying for such a vast portion is very tough, but it has to be done. So the books that are recommended will help you understand the topics better and also will give you the exact information you need.

  • Ancient India by Upinder Singh
  • Ashoka and Decline of the Maurya by Romila Thapar
  • The wonder that was India part 1 and 2 by S.A.A. Rizvi
  • India’s struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • Modern India by Sumit Sarkar
  • Age of Revolution by E.J. Hobsbawm
  • Age of Capital by E.J. Hobsbawm
  • NCERT textbooks for History

Also Read: Get Better Results with these Books for History in UPSC

UPSC History Question Paper

Your UPSC optional history question paper will be divided into 2 papers. Each of 250 marks meaning a total of 500 marks. They will be on separate days and the question paper generally has the same pattern as the previous year’s questions papers.

Go through previous year’s question papers and also analyze the questioning. The structure of the questions, the scope and how to answer them. Most questions are based from NCERT textbooks so choose that as your main source of information and since it is government provided, it has accurate facts that are accepted worldwide and maintain a neutral point of view for the reader.


If you are writing the IAS exam, then you understand how tough the history syllabus is to cover. It is important for students to know their portion well and to be able to divide.

Dividing your portion will allow you to target it separately, and then you can have books that will help you score better.

The article suggests a list of books to candidates that can help them to understand the topics better and with correct facts. This should help you to score better and keep you motivated. Keep working hard and stay safe!

Also Read : Sociology Optional Question Paper: How to Prepare for UPSC 2021 Sociology Paper

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Best Book for History Optional: Boost Your Scores for UPSC Optional History
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Best Book for History Optional: Boost Your Scores for UPSC Optional History
Are you preparing for the IAS exam? Looking for books that will help you in IAS exams for History optional subject? Click on the link to find out more.
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