Civil Services Main Exam Syllabus for History


  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.
  1. Pre-history and Proto-history:
  • Geographical factors; hunting and gathering (paleolithic and mesolithic); Beginning of agriculture (neolithic and chalcolithic).
  1. Indus Valley Civilization:
  • Origin, date, extent, characteristics, decline, survival and significance, art and architecture.
  1. Megalithic Cultures:
  • Distribution of pastoral and farming cultures outside the Indus, Development of community life, Settlements, Development of agriculture, Crafts, Pottery, and Iron industry.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  • Disintegration of the empire; Sungas and Kanvas.
  1. 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.


See: UPSC IAS Preliminary Exam Syllabus 2021


  1. Early State and Society in Eastern India, Deccan and South India:
  • Kharavela, The Satavahanas, 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.


  1. 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.


  1. Regional States during 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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


  1. 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


  1. The Thirteenth Century:
  • Establishment of the Delhi Sultanate: The Ghurian 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


  1. The Fourteenth Century:
  • “The Khalji Revolution”
  • Alauddin Khalji: Conquests and territorial expansion, agrarian and economic measures
  • Muhammad Tughluq: Major projects, agrarian measures, 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
  1. 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, evolution of a composite culture
  • Economy: Agricultural production, rise of urban economy and non-agricultural production, trade and commerce
  1. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century – Political Developments and Economy:
  • Rise of Provincial Dynasties: Bengal, Kashmir (Zainul Abedin), Gujarat, Malwa, Bahmanids
  • The Vijayanagra Empire
  • Lodis
  • Mughal Empire, First phase: Babur and Humayun
  • The Sur Empire: Sher Shah’s administration
  • Portuguese Colonial enterprise
  • Bhakti and Sufi Movements
  1. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century – Society and Culture:
  • Regional cultural specificities
  • Literary traditions
  • Provincial architecture
  • Society, culture, literature and the arts in Vijayanagara Empire.
  1. Akbar:
  • Conquests and consolidation of the Empire
  • Establishment of Jagir and Mansab systems
  • Rajput policy
  • Evolution of religious and social outlook, theory of Sulh-i-kul and religious policy
  • Court patronage of art and technology
  1. 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.
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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
  • Emergence of Afghan Power, Battle of Panipat:1761
  • State of politics, culture and economy on the eve of the British conquest

See: UPSC Exam 2020 Notification



  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.
  1. British Expansion in India:
  • Bengal – Mir Jafar and Mir Kasim; The Battle of Buxar; Mysore; The Marathas; The three Anglo-Maratha Wars; The Punjab.
  1. 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.
  1. Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule:
  • Land revenue settlements in British India; The Permanent Settlement; Ryotwari Settlement; Mahalwari Settlement; 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; De-industrialisation; 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Social and Religious Reform movements in Bengal and Other Areas:
  • Ram Mohan Roy, The Brahmo Movement; Devendranath Tagore; Iswarchandra Vidyasagar; The Young Bengal Movement; Dayanada 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.
  1. 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 (1899-1900); 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.
  1. 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.
  2. Rise of Gandhi; 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.
  3. 10. Constitutional Developments in the Colonial India between 1858 and 1935
  4. 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.

  1. 12. Politics of Separatism; the Muslim League; the Hindu Mahasabha; Communalism and the politics of partition; Transfer of power; Independence.
  2. 13. Consolidation as a Nation; Nehru’s Foreign Policy; India and her neighbours (1947-1964); The linguistic reorganisation of States (1935-1947); Regionalism and regional inequality; Integration of Princely States; Princes in electoral politics; the Question of National Language.
  3. 14. Caste and Ethnicity after 1947; Backward castes and tribes in post-colonial electoral politics; Dalit movements.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  1. Origins of Modern Politics:
  • European States System.
  • American Revolution and the Constitution.
  • French revolution and aftermath, 1789-1815.
  • American Civil War with reference to Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery.
  • British Democratic Politics, 1815-1850; Parliamentary Reformers, Free Traders, Chartists.
  1. Industrialization:
  • English Industrial Revolution: Causes and Impact on Society
  • Industrialization in other countries: USA, Germany, Russia, Japan
  • Industrialization and Globalization.
  1. Nation-State System:
  • Rise of Nationalism in 19th century
  • Nationalism: state-building in Germany and Italy
  • Disintegration of Empires in the face of the emergence of nationalities across the world.
  1. Imperialism and Colonialism:
  • South and South-East Asia
  • Latin America and South Africa
  • Australia
  • Imperialism and free trade: Rise of neo-imperialism.
  1. Revolution and Counter-Revolution:
  • 19th Century European revolutions
  • The Russian Revolution of 1917-1921
  • Fascist Counter-Revolution, Italy and Germany.
  • The Chinese Revolution of 1949
  1. World Wars:
  • 1st and 2nd World Wars as Total Wars: Societal implications
  • World War I: Causes and consequences
  • World War II: Causes and consequence
  1. The World after World War II:
  • Emergence of two power blocs
  • Emergence of Third World and non-alignment
  • UNO and the global disputes.
  1. Liberation from Colonial Rule:
  • Latin America-Bolivar
  • Arab World-Egypt
  • Africa-Apartheid to Democracy
  • South-East Asia-Vietnam
  1. Decolonization and Underdevelopment:
  • Factors constraining development: Latin America, Africa


  1. Unification of Europe:
  • Post War Foundations: NATO and European Community
  • Consolidation and Expansion of European Community
  • European Union.
  1. Disintegration of 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.

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