Are you preparing for UPSC and chose history as your optional subject? Then the first thing you should know is the history optional syllabus for UPSC. Only after you get accustomed to the syllabus of history for UPSC, can you start looking for various study materials and history optional question papers that will help you prepare even better.

Here is this article, you are going to get a clear idea about the UPSC history syllabus along with some important webpage links that will definitely help you crack the UPSC IAS exam. So, let’s not waste any more time.

UPSC History Optional Syllabus

Optional Subject consists of 2 papers. Each paper is of 250 marks, making a total of 500 marks.

UPSC History Syllabus Paper I

#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 accounts: Greek, Chinese and Arab writers.

#2. Pre-history and Proto-history

Geographical factors; hunting and gathering (palaeolithic and mesolithic); Beginning of agriculture (neolithic and


Also Read: Up Your Modern History Scores with Ease with These Best Modern History Books for UPSC

#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 Buddhism; 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.

Also Read: How To Prepare Science And Technology For UPSC Civil Services Exam: UPSC Prelims & Mains

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.

Also Read: Best Book for History Optional: Boost Your Scores for UPSC Optional History

#11. The Regional States during the 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 Chalukyas 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

Also Read: How to prepare INDIAN HISTORY for UPSC IAS exam

#15. The Thirteenth Century

# Establishment of the Delhi Sultanate: The Ghorian 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 Khilji: Conquests and territorial expansion, agrarian and economic measures

# Muhammad Tughluq: Major projects, agrarian measures, the bureaucracy of Muhammad Tughluq

# Firuz Tughluq: 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 and Humayun

# The Sur Empire: Sher Shah’s administration

# Portuguese Colonial enterprise

# Bhakti and Sufi Movements

Also Read: Modern Indian History Notes for UPSC: IAS Mains Optional Preparation Online

#19. The Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Century – Society and Culture

# Regional cultural specificities – Literary traditions

# Provincial architecture

# Society, culture, literature and the arts in the Vijayanagara Empire.

#20.  Akbar

# Conquests and consolidation of the Empire

# Establishment of Jagir and Mansab systems

# Rajput policy

# Evolution of religious and social outlook, the 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 Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

# Population, agricultural production, craft production.

# Towns, commerce with Europe through Dutch, English and French companies: a trade revolution – Indian mercantile classes, banking, insurance and credit systems.

# Condition of peasants, condition of women.

# Evolution of the Sikh community and the Khalsa Panth

#23.  Culture in the Mughal Empire

# Persian histories and other literature

# Hindi and other 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 politics, culture and economy on the eve of the British conquest.

Also Read: Indian History Notes for UPSC: A Guide to Self Study for History Easily

UPSC Optional Syllabus for UPSC History Paper-II

#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

# Land revenue settlements in British India; The Permanent Settlement; Ryotwari Settlement; MahalwariSettlement; Economic impact of the revenue arrangements; Commercialization of agriculture; Rise of landless agrarian labourers; Impoverishment of the rural society.

# Dislocation of traditional trade and commerce; Deindustrialisation; 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 movements 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 (18991900); 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

The 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

Also Read Geography Optional Books by Toppers: Prepare for Geography Optional of UPSC 2021

#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 reorganization 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 postcolonial 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

# Major ideas of Enlightenment: Kant, Rousseau

# Spread of Enlightenment in the colonies

# Rise of socialist ideas (up to Marx); spread of Marxian Socialism.

#17. Origins of Modern Politics

# European States System.

# American Revolution and the Constitution.

# French revolution and aftermath, 17891815.

# American Civil War with reference to Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery.

# British Democratic Politics, 18151850; Parliamentary Reformers, Free Traders, Chartists.

#18. Industrialization

# English Industrial Revolution: Causes and Impact on Society

# Industrialization in other countries: USA, Germany, Russia, Japan (iii) Industrialization and Globalization

#19. Nation-State System

# Rise of Nationalism in the 19th century

# Nationalism: state-building in Germany and Italy

# Disintegration of Empires in the face of the emergence of nationalities across the world.

Also Read : Anthropology Books for UPSC: 2021 Preparation Strategy for Anthropology Optional

#20. Imperialism and Colonialism

# South and South-East Asia

# Latin America and South Africa

# Australia

# Imperialism and free trade: Rise of neo-imperialism.

#21. Revolution and Counter-Revolution

# 19th Century European revolutions

#  The Russian Revolution of 19171921

# Fascist Counter-Revolution, Italy and Germany

# The Chinese Revolution of 1949

#22. World Wars

# 1st and 2nd World Wars as Total Wars: Societal implications

# World War I: Causes and consequences

# World War II: Causes and consequence

#23.  The World after World War II

# Emergence of two power blocs

# Emergence of Third World and non-alignment

# UNO and global disputes.

#24.  Liberation from Colonial Rule

# Latin America-Bolivar

# Arab World-Egypt

# Africa-Apartheid to Democracy

# South-East Asia-Vietnam

#25. Decolonization and Underdevelopment

# Factors constraining development: Latin America, Africa

#26. Unification of Europe

# Post War Foundations: NATO and European Community

# Consolidation and Expansion of European Community

# European Union

#27. The Disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World

# Factors leading to the collapse of Soviet communism and the Soviet Union, 1985-1991

# Political Changes in Eastern Europe 1989-2001.

# End of the cold war and US ascendancy in the World as the lone superpower.

Ancient History Syllabus for UPSC

Set 1

# India’s prehistoric cultures

# Origins of the Indus Civilization—the many phases—society, economics, and culture—contacts with other cultures—factors that lead to its fall

# Pastoral and agricultural society’s geographic coverage and features.

# From the Rigvedic through the later Vedic periods, Vedic society and literature change.

# Vedic culture The development of the Varna system and monarchy, religion-Upanishad thought-Political and social organisation

# From the Mahajanapadas to the Nandas, the establishment of the state and urbanism took place.

# Buddhism and Jainism: Factors Affecting Buddhism’s Spread

# Chandragupta and Megasthenes were the founders of the Mauryan Empire.

Set 2

# Asoka’s inscriptions, dhamma, culture, governance, and art were all important to him.

# The Evolution of Jatis in Post-Mauryan India, BC 200-AD 300

# The Satavahanas and the establishment of the Peninsula’s polity.

# Texts from the Sangam and society.

# Contacts with the outside world: Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Parthians, Kushans, Kanishka’s.

# Bhagavatism, Hinayana, Shaivism, Mahayana Buddhism, Jainism, and Culture and Art are examples of different religions.

# The Guptas and their offspring.

# Literature, sciences, the arts, the business, and society – Changes in the empire’s governmental system.

Study Materials Covering Ancient History Syllabus for UPSC

Book Author
India’s Ancient Past  R.S. Sharma
Facets of Indian Culture  Spectrum
An Introduction to Indian Art NCERT Class XI
Living Craft Traditions of India NCERT Class XI
The Wonder That Was India A.L. Basham
Ancient Indian History  NCERT Class VI
Themes in Indian History Part I NCERT Class XI

Hopefully, this article will give you a brief idea about the history optional syllabus for UPSC. For important notes, history optional question papers, reference books etc, you can keep an eye here. You can also share your thoughts with us about choosing history as your optional paper and how you are preparing for it. To comment, write your thoughts in the box below. Best of luck!

Also Read: Anthropology Optional Syllabus: Checkout UPSC 2021 Optional Subject Syllabus

Content Protection by
History Optional Syllabus for UPSC: Here’s What You Need to Study to Crack UPSC 2021
Article Name
History Optional Syllabus for UPSC: Here’s What You Need to Study to Crack UPSC 2021
Looking for the UPSC History syllabus? Here, we have got you covered. Read this post to learn each and every detail included in the UPSC History syllabus. Click here to read now.
Publisher Name
UPSC Pathshala
Publisher Logo

About the Author


Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

View All Articles