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Home » Civil Services Examination Strategy » Civil Services Strategy For Indian History

Civil Services Examination Strategy For Indian History


History, undoubtedly, remains one of the 'most popular' optional subjects among those who take the Civil Services Main Examination. If you are not intimidated by a big syllabus, this subject has a number of advantages: it is easier to grasp, there is no dearth of study material and it covers an important segment of General Studies paper on account of overlapping themes. A judicious mix of 'hard work' and 'right strategy' can see one through. In contrast to the Prelim Exam which seeks to stress more on facts and extensive coverage of themes, the Main Exam stresses on conceptualisation behind the facts of historical happenings. Listed below is the 'right strategy' for the mains.  

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Ancient Indian history

In the new syllabus, there is greater emphasis on sources of early Indian history. The archaeological study of ancient India, from the prehistoric times to the Iron Age has gained currency now. In archaeology, one has to keep oneself abreast with the latest findings. The politico-administrative history from pre-Mauryan period - rise of Mahajanapadas, to post-Gupta period-beginning of feudalism and centrifugal trends has been given more significance in the revised syllabus. You should start from Indus civilisation and trace the evolution upto the post-Gupta period; Major Philosophical thinkers and schools, wherein you should take into account Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain philosophical schools. In science and mathematics, you can start from the contribution of the Harappans to Aryabhatta.

Medieval Indian History

To make things simpler in this section, you should categorise it into five subsections: This part of the syllabus gives greater emphasis on contemporary historians and sources of the medieval Indian history. Prepare them for short questions; whereas study the Delhi sultanate in totality. Likewise treat the Mughals holistically, giving special emphasis on the age of Akbar; in this unit, include all the provincial dynasties while the Cholas, the Vijayanagar and the Marathas should be prepared for a major question and for the last which is perhaps the most important unit from the examination point of view, you must have a comparative and evolutionary approach. Important topics of this unit are: Society during medieval times; Bhakti movement: Sankaracharya, Ramanuja, Chaitanya, Kabir, Bhakti movement in South India, Lingayats, Maharashtra Dharma; Sufi-movement; architecture from early Sultanate architecture to the Lodis, to name a few.

Modern Indian History

Modern Indian history requires a chronological study. To put it straight and simple, it will be advisable to prepare for the revised themes unit-wise.
British conquests and Indian reactions: The syllabus mentions Mysore, Punjab, the Marathas and their resistance against the colonial power. You should study the political, social and economic circumstances leading to the 1857 revolt and other uprisings, such as tribal, civil and peasants.
British economic policy: An important aspect of British colonisation was economic exploitation of India and its ruinous impact on Indian society. In this regard pro-nationalistic and Leftist ideological viewpoints must be taken into account.

Socio-cultural aspects: It can include sub-topics like Indian Renaissance, Christian missionary activities, evolution of educational and social policies and its role in rise of nationalism in India. Other sub-topics, such as on literary personalities like Tagore, Premchand, S Bharati and others; film and theatre are important as well. It reflects a shift towards cultural evolution of modern India.
Freedom struggle: A thorough and in-depth study of history of Indian nationalism from 1885-foundation of Congress to 1947 - partition and freedom is a must. This section accounts for 90-100 marks in Main General Studies paper too. Sub-divide the particular unit into following section: 1885 to 1916, which includes early Indian nationalism upto 'Home Rule' movement; 1916 to 1945, which is the 'Gandhian era'. You can start form 'Champaran experiment' to 'Quit India movement'. The Gandhian thought and methods of mass mobilisation should be given special emphasis; 1945 to 1947 - a chronological study of this portion will be the right approach. Analyse how and why Indian nationalism, at the end yielded a paradoxical result, which is partition and freedom together; other strands of national movement, which ran parallel to the Congress movement; rise and growth of the revolutionary terrorism; Swarajist movement; social and communist movements; Indian National Army - role of Subhash Chandra Bose and rise and growth of communalism.
Independence to 1964: This unit includes the Nehruvian era and development of an independent Indian polity, Constitution, planned economy and foreign policy.

World history

There has been a shift towards conceptualisation and generalisation of events than factual study of individual events themselves. You can start with Renaissance, enlightenment and socialist ideas. Similarly undertake a study of all the major revolutions that shaped the modern world history. Moreover, the two World Wars have to be studied as total wars. Going through the new syllabus, one can safely conclude that mastering the European history can fetch more marks now. The second half of this section makes world history more contemporary and relevant. This section now covers important portions of General Studies' paper too.
A good book on international politics or contemporary history will suffice for this portion. You are now expected to have detailed and in-depth understanding of the post-World War II developments, such as the 'Cold War' and division of world into two military blocs, NATO and Warsaw pact; emergence of the 'Third World' and their decision to remain nonaligned; United Nations; decolonisation and factors constraining development of the newly-independent Latin American and African countries.
At the same time you should study the circumstances leading to the end of the 'Cold War' and the US ascendancy in the world, as well as the disintegration of Soviet Union, fall of Berlin wall and the US and the UN victory in the Gulf war. Another important strand of contemporary history is process of integration deciding fate of nations across the globe, which is 'Globalisation'. Continent-wise, Europe has already achieved a major success in this regard in the form of the European Union.

Important Topics


1. Indus Valley civilization

- Society, Religion
- Important Harappan towns & artifacts excavated
- Extension
- Town Planning
- Economical Importance
- Political Life
- Causes of decline
2. Aryan Civilization: - Origin
- Vedic literature
- Religion
- Society
- Polity
- Economic Condition
- Difference between Indus and Aryan
3. Religions movements.
- About Mahavira & teachings
- councils
- Important books causes for decline
- Buddha teachings
- Councils
- Important books
- Causes for decline
4. The Mauryan Empire - About Ashoka in detail
- Article and Architecture
- Administration
- Society
5. Central Asian contacts and their results.
- Indo- Greeky
- The Shakas
- The pacthians Article and Architecture
- The Kushans - Kanishka in detail
6. South Indian History
- Sangam Age
- Satavahanas
- Chola's
- Pallavas art and architecture
7. Gupta Empire
- Administration
- Article and Architecture
- Social development
8. Post-Gupta period
- Harsha in detail
- Fendal System


1. Turkish Invasion
2. Delhi Sultnate
- Rulers and their contribution
- Aibek, Iltumish, Balban, Aluddin Khilji, Mohamad bin Tughlug, Feroz Tughlug, Sikandu lodi, Ibrahim Lodi in detail
- Administration (Important terms)
- Art and Architecture
3. Vijayanagar Empire
- Krishna Devaraya in detail
- Important temples and books
4. Mughals
- Babar's wars
- Akbar in detail
- Jehangir, Shahjahan, Aurangazeb in detail
- Administration
- Society
- Causes for decline
- Important books (authors)
- Art and Architecture


1. Marathas
- Shivaji in detail
- Administration
- Peshwas and their administration
2. European powers
- Chronologoical order of European powers in India
- East India Company
- Important Governor General and their contribution
Warsen Hastings, Coronwallis, wellesely, William Bentinck, Dalhousie, Lytton, Rippon, Curzon, Mount Patten.
- British rule impact on India
- Social and cultural developments/Awakening
3. Reform movements
- In detail
- Founders and their contribution
- Books
4. 1857 Revolt
- In detail
5. Freedom Struggle
- Formation of INC.
- Moderates and Extremist
- Partition Role of Bengal/Surat Split
- Muslim league
- Lucknow pact
- Minto Morley/Montagu Chelmsford
6. Ghandhian Era
- His experiments
- Non Cooperation Movement
- Civil dis-obedience movement
- Gandhi - Irwin Pact
- August Offer
- Quit India Movement
- Cripps mission
- Cabinet Committee
- Partition
7 .Important
- INC meetings and its resolutions
- President, place
8. Extremist
- Terrorist activites
- Bengal
- Maharastra
- Some other places
9. Subash Chandra Bose
- INA formation in detail

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