Indian History Books For UPSC IAS Exam

The UPSC Civil Service Exam is one of the most competitive exams in the world. The IAS Exam comprises three stages and each stage involves a different preparation approach.

Candidates can read in detail about the IAS Exam at 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

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

Candidates can read the details of the stages of the IAS Exam in the links given above. In this article, we will give the best books for Indian history segregated as per the exam stage.

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

Indian History Books for IAS Prelims exam:

Book Category
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.

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 until the now
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:

Book Category
History of Modern World – Jain and Mathur Modern 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 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

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 1 syllabus Paper 2 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 optional syllabus in detail, here.

Best Indian History books for History Optional

  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

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

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


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