Indian History Books For UPSC IAS Exam - List of Important History Books

History is an important subject of civil services examination. As it entails ancient India history, medieval Indian history, modern Indian history and world history, it becomes imperative for aspirants to have the list of history books for IAS Exam preparation.

In this article, we will give an exhaustive list of the best Indian History books for the UPSC IAS Exam. The stages of the IAS Exam are given below:

  1. UPSC Prelims – objective-type questions
  2. UPSC Mains – descriptive-essay type questions
  3. IAS Interview

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Apart from taking assistance from the Indian history books, strengthen your UPSC preparation by solving question papers for prelims and mains examination:

Check the best books for Indian history segregated as per the exam stage. The list has been divided based on History books for IAS prelims and mains.

Indian History Books

As per the UPSC Syllabus, the History part of the syllabus can be further sub-divided into:

  • Ancient Indian History
  • Medieval Indian History
  • Modern Indian History
  • World History (only in UPSC Mains)

Best History Books for UPSC

List of Indian History Books for IAS Prelims exam:

UPSC History books for the prelims stage of the examination are mentioned in a list below:

List of Best Books for History UPSC History Books for UPSC Prelims- Categories
A Brief History of Modern India Modern History
NCERT Class XI Modern India- Bipan Chandra Modern History
NCERT Class XI Medieval India – Satish Chandra Medieval History
NCERT Class XI Ancient India Ancient History
NCERT Class XII Theme in Indian History- I Ancient Indian History
NCERT Class XII Theme in Indian History- II Medieval Indian History
NCERT Class XII Theme in Indian History- III Medieval & Modern Indian History
NCERT Class XI an Introduction to Indian Art Ancient Indian History
NCERT Class XI Living Crafts Traditions of India Indian History
NCERT Class XI Crafts Tradition of India Indian History

After the IAS Prelims exam, aspirants need to focus on the IAS Mains Exam. In UPSC Mains, apart from Indian History, there is also part of World History included in the syllabus.

UPSC 2022

List of Indian History Books for IAS Mains exam:

The History portion in UPSC Mains – GS Paper 1 is given in brief below:

Syllabus Description
Indian Culture Art Forms, Literature, Architecture from ancient to modern era
Modern Indian history Important personalities, events, problems during the mid of the 18th century till post-Independence
The Freedom Struggle Different phases and main contributors and contributions from various parts of the nation
India post-independence Post-independence consolidation and reorganization inside the country
World History events, colonization, the industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, decolonization and political philosophies

Best History Books for IAS Mains exam are as follows:

List of Indian History Best Books for UPSC History books for UPSC Mains – Category
History of Modern World – Jain and Mathur World History
Mastering Modern World History-Norman Lowe Modern World History
India After Gandhi – Ramchandra Guha Modern Indian History
India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra Modern Indian History
History Of Modern India – Bipan Chandra Modern Indian History
Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania Modern Indian History
India’s Ancient Past- RS Sharma Ancient Indian History
The Wonder That Was India – A.L. Basham Ancient Indian History
From Plassey to Partition Modern Indian History

Aspirants who choose History as an optional subject in the UPSC 2021 exam often find the syllabus interesting. The wide availability of study material and its popularity makes History subject relatively easier in the Mains exam.

Best Indian History Books For History Optional

The list of Indian History books for History Optional is given below:

  1. A New Look at Modern Indian History From 1707 to the Modern Times- Alka Mehta and B L Grover S
  2. Mastering Modern World History- Norman Lowe (Best book for World History UPSC)
  3. The Penguin History Of Early India: From The Origins To AD 1300- Romila Thapar
  4. Age of Revolution 1789-1848- Eric Hobsbawm
  5. History of Medieval India- Satish Chandra (Medieval history book for UPSC exam)
  6. History Of Modern India- Bipan Chandra
  7. India’s Ancient Past- Ram Sharan Sharma
  8. Modern Indian History- Bipan Chandra
  9. Age Of Capital: 1848-1875 (History of Civilization)- Eric Hobsbawm
  10. Age of Capital -E.J. Hobsbawm
  11. Age of Empires -E.J. Hobsbawm
  12. Age of Revolution- E.J. Hobsbawm
  13. Contemporary World History (NCERT) -Arjun Dev –
  14. Europe Since 1815 -W.C. Craig
  15. Europe Since 1870 -James Joll.
  16. Europe Since Napoleon -David Thompson
  17. Industry & Empire -E.J. Hobsbawm
  18. The social basis of Democracy & Dictatorship -B.J. Moore
  19. The Mainstream of Civilization -Strayer, Gatzke & Harbison
  20. The story of Civilization, Vol. 2 (NCERT) -Arjun Dev

In UPSC Mains, aspirants can also choose History as one of the optional subjects. History is a popular choice among aspirants because of the significant overlap with the General Studies Syllabus.

Syllabus for History Optional

Paper-I Syllabus Paper-II Syllabus
Archaeological sources European diffusion into India
Indus Valley Civilization British extension in India
Pre-history and Proto-history  Early composition of the British Raj
Megalithic Cultures  Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule
Vedic Period and Aryans Cultural and Social Developments
Mahajanapadas Period Religious and Social Reform movements in Bengal
Spread of Jainism and Buddhism Indian reaction to British Rule
Mauryan Empire Birth of Indian Nationalism
Post – Mauryan Period-Indo-Greeks, Kushanas, Sakas and Western Kshatrapas Gandhian nationalism
Early Society in Eastern India and South India Constitutional Developments in the Colonial India
Guptas, Vardhanas and Vakatakas Politics of Separatism
Themes in Early Indian Cultural History Consolidation as a Nation
Early Medieval India, 750-1200 Political change and Economic development
Cultural Traditions in India, Literature, Art and Architecture and Temple architecture, painting and sculpture Modern ideas and Enlightenment
The 13th Century and 14th Century Origins of Modern Politics
Foundation of Delhi Sultanate and Turkish Sultans Industrialization
Society, Culture and Economy in the 13th and 14th Centuries Nation-State System
The 15th and early 16th Century Colonialism and Imperialism
The 15th and early 16th Century – Society and Culture Revolution and Counter-Revolution
Mughal Empire in the 17th Century
Economy and Society in the 16th and 17th Centuries
Culture in the Mughal Empire
The 18th Century

Candidates can check the History optional syllabus in detail in the linked article.

The UPSC Syllabus is comprehensive but it can be divided into few core areas, such as:

  1. History
  2. Polity
  3. Geography
  4. Economy
  5. Current Affairs

IAS Toppers recommend starting their preparation with NCERT books. For the complete list of all UPSC books, aspirants can check the linked article.

Apart from the UPSC history book list, get the NCERT notes on History below:

Frequently Asked Questions on Best History Books for UPSC


Q 1. Is NCERT enough for UPSC history?

Ans. Most of the IAS toppers recommend NCERT History Textbooks for UPSC Prelims and Mains preparation. These books usually suffice for those candidates who have not selected history as their optional subject. However, a selective reading of Rajiv Ahir’s Brief History of Modern India, Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence and AL Basham’s The Wonder That was India can also be immensely helpful for UPSC history preparation.

Q 2. Which book is better for UPSC history?

Ans. For non-humanities background candidates, NCERT History textbooks Class 6-12, Rajiv Ahir’s Brief History of Modern India is better. For candidates from humanities background, Class 11-12 NCERT or Tamil Nadu State Textbooks are better along with Ahir’s book.

Q 3. Which are the best modern history books for UPSC?

Ans. A few of the best books for modern history UPSC preparation are as follows:

  • NCERT Class XI Modern India – Bipan Chandra
  • History of Modern World – Jain and Mathur
  • History of Modern India – Bipan Chandra
  • A New Look at Modern Indian History From 1707 to the Modern Times- Alka Mehta and B L Grover S

The best book for modern history UPSC will be helpful for both, prelims and mains examination, and also for the IAS Mains optional preparation.


Q 4. Name the best Ancient History Books for UPSC.

Ans. Given below are a few of the best books for ancient history for UPSC preparation:

  • India’s Ancient Past- Ram Sharan Sharma
  • NCERT Class XI Ancient India
  • NCERT Class XI an Introduction to Indian Art

Q 5. Which are the best books for Medieval History for UPSC preparation?

Ans. The books for medieval history for UPSC preparation as given below:

  • History of Medieval India- Satish Chandra [NCERT]
  • Medieval India (Macmillan) Satish Chandra
  • Advanced Study in the History of Medival India by J.L.Mehta

For more details on the UPSC Preparation, you can check below:

UPSC Books IAS Topper
UPSC Notification History NCERT Books PDF Download
IAS Salary Medieval History Notes For UPSC
Modern History Notes for UPSC Ancient History Notes for UPSC
Chronology of Ancient History of India to Modern History of India UPSC MCQ On GK – IAS Prelims

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