UPSC Mains: Key Tips to cover Bipan Chandra’s ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’

Modern history is an important part of the UPSC syllabus for General Studies Paper I. The most recommended book for modern history for IAS exam is ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ authored by Bipan Chandra and a few other eminent historians. This book successfully details modern Indian history from 1857, the year of the Indian Revolt till the period after independence in 1947 in a lucid and complete manner. However, many aspirants are confused about how to go about reading this book which is a tad on the thicker side. So, we bring you a few pointers on how to study modern history for UPSC mains exam from Bipan Chandra’s book.

For the period of modern history before the Revolt of 1857, it is suggested that you go through the NCERT textbooks on modern India.

Ideally, you should read the whole book in the first reading. You need not make notes or underline the important points here. Just read the book like you would a novel. This will immensely help you in understanding the chronology of events that took place. Also, it will help you appreciate the continuity in reading history unlike when you read it with notes, when you will compartmentalise concepts, movements, people and events for better recall. In the second reading, you should make notes and internalise what you are studying, along with periodical revision.

When you read this book, there are certain KEY TOPICS which you should keep in mind. Make sure to make notes from this book under each key topic. This will help you understand the book better and also write better answers in the IAS mains exam.

Key Topic 1: Constitutional Development

Under this heading, you are basically trying to understand the role of our national freedom struggle in the development of the Indian Constitution. At each stage of the national movement, there are concepts and issues which later find resonance in the Constitution.

For example: the British had granted separate electorates for Muslims only. Here, only Muslims would vote in those constituencies for Muslim candidates. This move was condemned by national leaders saying it would divide the people on communal lines. Motilal Nehru’s report had also rejected communal electorates.

Today, in the country the constitution only reserves certain constituencies for SC/STs where every citizen would vote for any of the SC/ST candidate.

The Nehru Report also included fundamental rights for the citizens, federal form of government, ideal of secularism, etc. all of which later made way into the Indian Constitution.

Key Topic 2: Women Issues

Here candidates must focus on three things chiefly:

  1. Role of women in the Indian independence movement.
  2. Contribution of the freedom struggle towards women empowerment.
  3. Contribution of the freedom struggle towards post-independence women’s movements.

One should give importance to the women freedom fighters who took part in the national movement and played important role in the empowerment of Indian Women. Some of the women freedom fighters to name are Rani Laxmibai, Sarojini Naidu, Begum Hazrat Mahal, Kasturba Gandhi, Bhikaiji Cama, Annie Besant, etc.

While making notes on Women Empowerment, candidates should give importance to the below mentioned points.

  • How women in those days come out of their homes and onto the streets for the cause of the nation;
  • How this consciousness led to the further feminist movements in post-independence India?
  • What role did the various male freedom fighters have in this regard?
  • How did education affect the perception of women in society?

Key Topic 3: Literature

Under this topic candidates should give importance to:

  • literature contributed by various freedom fighters (moderates, the extremists, the socialists, women, on partition, etc) during the independence movement
  • its development and contribution towards the freedom movement
  • how literature inspired other people and draw them towards the National Movement, and
  • actions (sedition acts) taken by British against it

Also Read | Important Newspapers and Journal during Indian Freedom Struggle

You should also read about the Indian press and its development.

Key Topic 4: Communalism

This is another very important topic one should keep in mind while reading Bipan Chandra. Under this topic one study about the various steps taken by:

  • the political parties and leaders that may have contributed to causing communal rift in the nation
  • the British by introducing policies that were deliberately designed to keep the two major communities in India apart from each other (partition of Bengal, separate electorates, divide and rule, etc.)
  • the British to negate the feelings of nationalism by sowing communal seeds among the people, which ultimately led to the partition in 1947.

Key Topic 5: Trade unions and communist parties

Under this topic, importance should be given to

  • birth of trade unions in India
  • spread of socialism and communism
  • role of the Congress Party in the trade unions
  • contribution of trade union and communist parties in the national struggle, etc.

Key Topic 6: Gandhi and Non-violence

Needless to say, this is an important topic for the UPSC Exam.

Some points to highlight under this topic are:

  • his contribution to the independence movement in detail
  • how he developed his principles of Ahimsa and Satyagraha;
  • his various movements like non-cooperation movement, Quit India movement, Dandi march, etc.

Key Topic 7: Social Reform Movements

Socio-religious reform movements played a very important role during the national struggle. Here, the candidates should focus on:

  • How the reform movements and freedom struggle were interlinked.
  • National leaders who advocated for reforms in society and pressed the British to pass reformatory laws.
  • Freedom fighters who were against the idea of the British interfering with local customs (eg., Bal Gangadhar Tilak was against the Consent Act)
  • British contribution towards the reform movement
  • how many reform movements were linked to westernisation, i.e., how many of the ideals were derived from western principles?

Key Topic 8: Nationalism

The development and growth of nationalism in India from 1857 till 1947 is important. Before and during the 1856 revolt, the kings and leaders were mainly concerned with protecting their territorial interests. The first leaders (moderates) who sowed the seeds of nationalism had a different idea of what ‘India’ should be as opposed to the extremists and later leaders who wanted a free India. The early leaders wanted India to be a part of the British Empire whereas the later leaders were unflinching in their demand for complete independence.

Here one should concentrate on areas like

  • the British policies and measures to counter the growth of nationalism among Indians
    • like the divide and rule policy
  • the various acts they passed (starting from the Regulating Act 1773 to Indian Independence Act 1947.)
  • the princely states’ adoption of nationalism and how quick or slow they were in its adoption

Key Topic 9: Peasant movements

Peasant movements and tribal uprisings are important aspects of our freedom struggle. One should read about their contribution towards the freedom struggle.

These are some of the major key topics and certain areas under the topics that candidate should give importance while studying Bipin Chandra’s ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ for UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam.

Also Read | How to Study History for IAS?

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