Best Indian History Books for Civil Services IAS Exam

History is one of the most significant subjects for UPSC IAS Exam. The History is an interesting subject which gives us the information about our past.  It is blended with culture also. From history only we came to know about the life before us. If you have good enough knowledge of history, it is very easy to crack UPSC IAS Exam. The History paper in the Main Exam stresses on concepts behind the facts of historical happenings.

Know more about UPSC Syllabus and IAS Exam

Here we are listing the best history books for IAS examination. There are three stages in UPSC IAS exam. Accordingly, we are classifying the important books for Prelims, history books for IAS mains and for optional also.

Best history book for IAS Prelims/History books for UPSC Prelims

Read more | Tips and tricks to cover History Syllabus for UPSC Civil Services Prelims Exam


Syllabus for Prelims

The history segment of UPSC IAS Prelims Exam General Studies Paper I Syllabus includes questions from Indian art, culture and from Ancient, Medieval and Modern Indian History.

Read on to know which is the best book for history for UPSC prelims.

Below given are the important history books for prelims. For Prelims NCERT is more than enough. The NCERT covers the entire syllabus in an extensive manner. Along with the NCERT, one can go through the “A Brief History of Modern India” for detailed reading. Solving previous year question paper will also enhance your history preparation.

  • A Brief History of Modern India – Spectrum (modern history books for UPSC)
  • NCERT Class XI Modern India – Bipan Chandra
  • NCERT Class XI Medieval India – Satish Chandra (one of the best book for medieval Indian history for UPSC)
  • NCERT Class XI Ancient India – RS Sharma (Ancient India book for UPSC)
  • NCERT Class XII Theme in Indian History- I
  • NCERT Class XII Theme in Indian History- II
  • NCERT Class XII Theme in Indian History- III
  • Class XI Tamil Nadu History Textbook (Tamil Nadu books for UPSC)
  • Class XII Tamil Nadu History Textbook
  • NCERT Class XI an Introduction to Indian Art
  • NCERT Class XI Living Crafts Traditions of India
  • NCERT Class XI Crafts Tradition of India

Best history book for IAS Mains/Best book for Indian history for IAS exam


History syllabus for Mains
Indian culture covers the salient features of Art Forms, Literature, and Architecture since ancient period to modern.
Modern Indian history comprises of the important personalities, events, problems during the mid of the 18th century until the now
Different phases and main contributors and contributions from various parts of the nation in ‘The Freedom Struggle’
Post-independence consolidation and reorganization inside the country
History of the world consist of events, and its effect on the society from 18th century like colonization, industrial revolution, world wars, redraw of national boundaries, decolonization and political philosophies


The mains examination is a written exam where candidates have to present the answer in the essay format. To write a good answer candidate should have a wide reading. Then only one can tackle the UPSC Mains questions. The below-mentioned books will help you to build the knowledge. History books for UPSC mains:

  • History of Modern World – Jain and Mathur 
  • Mastering Modern World History -Norman Lowe 
  • India After Gandhi – Ramchandra Guha 
  • India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra (regarded by some as the best book for modern Indian history for UPSC)
  • History Of Modern India – Bipan Chandra (best book for Modern History for UPSC)
  • Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania
  • India’s Ancient Past – RS Sharma (Ancient History book for UPSC exam)
  • The Wonder That Was India – A.L. Bhasham (Ancient History book for UPSC exam)
  • From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India.

Best history books for UPSC IAS Mains optional

Reading and knowing history is always interesting The aspirants must opt an optional based on their interest.  It has no concepts, principles and theories. One has to remember the dates and events. Almost all the syllabus is covered in General Studies for mains is covered in optional also. So if one aspirant want to choose history as an optional will help them in both prelims and mains. The optional history subject has two papers -paper I and paper II. Each paper is of 250 marks.

Read more | Strategy to Select Best Optional Subject for 2017 UPSC Mains Examination

Syllabus for History optional
Archaeological sources
Indus Valley Civilization
Pre-history and Proto-history
Megalithic Cultures
Vedic Period and Aryans
Mahajanapadas Period
Spread of Jainism and Buddhism
Mauryan Empire
Post – Mauryan Period-Indo-Greeks, Kushanas, Sakas and Western Kshatrapas
Early Society in Eastern India and South India
Guptas, Vardhanas and Vakatakas
Regional States during Gupta Era
Themes in Early Indian Cultural History
Early Medieval India, 750-1200
Cultural Traditions in India, Literature,Art and Architecture and Temple architecture, painting and sculpture
The 13th Century and 14th Century
Foundation of Delhi Sultanate and Turkish Sultans
Society, Culture and Economy in the 13th and 14th Centuries
The 15th and early 16th Century
The 15th and early 16th Century – Society and Culture
Mughal Empire in the 17th Century
Economy and Society in the 16th and 17th Centuries
Culture in the Mughal Empire
The 18th Century


Syllabus for History optional
European diffusion into India
British extension in India
Early composition of the British Raj
Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule
Cultural and Social Developments
Religious and Social Reform movements in Bengal
Indian reaction to British Rule
Birth of Indian Nationalism
Gandhian nationalism
Constitutional Developments in the Colonial India
Politics of Separatism
Consolidation as a Nation
Political change and Economic development
Modern ideas and Enlightenment
Origins of Modern Politics
Nation-State System
Colonialism and Imperialism
Revolution and Counter-Revolution


If your optional subject for UPSC IAS Mains Exam is history, you need a thorough knowledge of the subject. The below-mentioned books will help in your UPSC IAS mains optional preparation.

  • A New Look at Modern Indian History From 1707 to the Modern Times- Alka Mehta and B L Grover S
  • Mastering Modern World History- Norman Lowe (Best book for World History UPSC)
  • The Penguin History Of Early India: From The Origins To AD 1300- Romila Thapar
  • Age of Revolution 1789-1848- Eric Hobsbawm
  • History of Medieval India- Satish Chandra (Medieval history book for UPSC exam)
  • History Of Modern India- Bipan Chandra
  • India’s Ancient Past- Ram Sharan Sharma
  • Modern Indian History- Bipan Chandra
  • Age Of Capital: 1848-1875 (History of Civilization)- Eric Hobsbawm

For a list of World History books for UPSC exam, click on the link below:

World History Book for UPSC Exam/Books for World History for UPSC.

You can download History books for IAS PDF from here.

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