Union Public Service Commission is a body that conducts the Indian Civil Services exam every year to select some eligible candidates who have to serve the country. The IAS posts are of very high value in the country.

We know very well that every year lakhs of students appear for the IAS exam and just a small number of them qualify for the next level and similarly for the final interview round. 

The preparation has to be on-point for a better outcome. We also know that each topic is equally important for selection. History also plays an important role in selection as this is a very vast topic and proper books are required for selection.

Let us see what all we will get to know from the article. In this article, we have tried to cover up with the best history books for UPSC, Indian history books for UPSC, and even world history books for UPSC. Apart from this, we will cover books for history optional UPSC, history books for UPSC prelims, and history books for UPSC main exam.

I think we shall now begin with the discussion:

Basic Details of the IAS Exam

IAS is conducted at three stages which are as follows:

1. IAS Prelims: 

This is the first stage where any candidate who is eligible according to the terms laid by UPSC can sit for the exam.

2. IAS Mains: 

This is the second stage of the exam where those who clear the cut-off are eligible to sit in.

3. IAS Interview: 

This is the final stage round where the students get some marks for different things they are asked in verbal talk.

Note – Syllabus for IAS pre and mains is different hence, different history books are prescribed below for the students.

Also Read: Indian Administrative Services AND IAS Eligibility Criteria

History books for UPSC prelims

According to the UPSC syllabus, history is divided into mainly four parts,

  1. Ancient History.
  2. Medieval History.
  3. Modern History.
  4. World History. This is only asked in the IAS mains exam. No need to study for the pre-exam.

Now, let us start with the important books,

1. Ancient History

  • NCERT book of class 11th of Ancient History.
  • For Ancient History of India, you can study this from NCERT Class XII Theme in Indian History- I.
  • There is also a book of class 11th for Indian Ancient History i.e. An Introduction to Indian Art NCERT book.

2. Medieval History

  • There is Satish Chandra’s NCERT book of class 11th Medieval India.
  • NCERT book of class 12th – Theme in Indian History- II. Another book named Theme in Indian History – III is an equally important book for Medieval and Modern Indian History.

3. Modern History

  • There is a book ‘A brief history of Modern India’ that is considered to be a great book for Modern History.
  • Other than this, there is an NCERT book of class 11th Modern India written by Bipan Chandra.

4. Indian History

There are two NCERT books particularly for Indian History.

  • Class 11th Living Crafts Traditions of India.
  • Class 11th Crafts Tradition of India.

The above-discussed ones are for the IAS pre-exam that an aspirant must have with him on his shelves.

Now, let us talk about history books for IAS mains.

History Books for UPSC Mains

Before getting on to the books directly, we will first discuss in-brief the syllabus for IAS mains.

The complete portion is quite big so let us keep only the history portion for this article.

  1. Indian Culture – It includes Art forms, Literature, Architecture from the ancient to the modern era.
  2. Modern Indian History – it consists of important personalities, events, problems during the mid of 18th century and post-independence.
  3. The Freedom Struggle – Different phases and contributors from different parts of the nation.
  4. India post-independence – Post-independence consolidation and reorganization inside the country.
  5. World History – We will also discuss World History books for UPSC. World History is also an important topic for the IAS mains exam. It includes events, colonization, the industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, decolonization, and political philosophies.

The different books for the IAS mains is discussed below.

To begin with, there are a few books for Modern History. So let’s discuss them together and I will let you know which book is for World History and which is for Indian History.

  1. Book on History of Modern World by Jain and Mathur is based on Modern History.
  2. You can become a master of World History with Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe.
  3. You can read India after Gandhi for Modern Indian History.
  4. There are two books written by Bipin Chandra that is, India’s struggle for Independence and History of Modern India. These are one of the best books for Modern Indian history.
  5. Another book written by Nitin Singhania is Indian Art and Culture to understand India’s art and culture.
  6. Last but not least, Plassey to Partition is also a great book that deals with the things that have happened since the battle of Plassey and till the partition of India.
There are mainly two important books for Ancient India.
  1. India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma.
  2. The Wonder that was India by AL Basham.

There is an interesting syllabus for the people or aspirants who choose History as an optional subject. We will also cover the syllabus as it is quite an interesting one and also books for history optional UPSC.

Syllabus for Optional History

In paper -1 the following topics are asked or we can say all of them are important to be learned.

  • Archaeological sources.
  • Indus Valley Civilization.
  • Pre-history and Proto-history.
  • Megalithic culture.
  • Vedic period and Aryans.
  • Mahajanapadas period.
  • Jainism and Buddhism spread.
  • Mauryan Empire.
  • Post – Mauryan Period-Indo-Greeks, Kushanas, Sakas, and Western Kshatrapas.
  • Early Society in Eastern India and South India.
  • Guptas, Vardhanas and Vakatakas.
  • Themes in Early Indian Cultural History.
  • Early Medieval India from 750-1200.
  • Cultural Traditions in India, Literature, Art and Architecture and Temple architecture, painting, and sculpture.
  • The 13th Century and 14th Century.
  • Foundation of Delhi Sultanat and Turkish Sultans.
  • Society, Culture, and Economy of the 13th and 14th Centuries.
  • The 15th and 16th centuries’ early time, the society and culture.
  • Mughal empire of 17th century.
  • The economy and society in the later 16th century and 17th century.
  • Culture of the Mughal empire.
  • The 18th century.

For paper – 2, the syllabus is discussed below.

  • Europeans diffusion in India.
  • British extension in India.
  • Early composition of British Raj.
  • The Economic Impact of British rule.
  • The cultural and social developments.
  • The movements of religion and social cause in Bengal.
  • India’s reaction to British rule.
  • Birth of Indian Nationalism.
  • Gandhian nationalism.
  • Constitutional developers in colonial India.
  • Politics of separatism.
  • Consolidation as a nation.
  • Political and Economic development.
  • Modern ideas and enlightenment.
  • Industrialization.
  • Introduction of Modern politics.
  • Nation-state system.
  • Colonization and imperialism.
  • Revolution.

The following is the list of books of history optional UPSC, and the best history books for the UPSC IAS exam.

  1. The first one is A New Look at Modern Indian History from 1707 till modern times. This is written by Alka Mehta and BL Grover.
  2. The next one is the best world history book for UPSC. Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe.
  3. The penguin history of early India from the origins to AD 1300. Romila Thapar has written by Romila Thapar.
  4. The age of revolution from 1749 – 1848 by Eric Hobsbawm.
  5. History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra. This is a Medieval history book for the UPSC exam.
  6. History Of Modern India by Bipan Chandra.
  7. India’s Ancient Past written by Ram Sharan Sharma.
  8. Modern Indian History is by Bipan Chandra.
  9. The Age Of Capital: 1848-1875 (History of Civilization) also written by Eric Hobsbawm.
  10. Age of Capital -E.J. Hobsbawm. E.J Hobsbawm has written many other books.
  11. Age of Empires -E.J. Hobsbawm.
  12. Age of Revolution- E.J. Hobsbawm.
  13. Contemporary World History, an NCERT book by Arjun Dev.
  14. Europe Since 1815 by 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, the Volume – 2 (an NCERT book) -Arjun Dev.

I know you might be amazed by looking at the books as the course for UPSC is wide and a lot of hard work is necessary to crack the exam.


 We have covered Indian history books for UPSC, the World history book for UPSC, and the best history books for UPSC in the article.

We know that books are a key to success and we can’t neglect this fact. Even the toppers recommend starting the preparation from the NCERT books. The NCERT is designed in such a way that clears the basics and develops the interest of the reader.

Further, there are many coaching that helps in giving proper study material and valuable tips to the aspirant. One such is The Thought Tree in Jaipur. T3 provides a library for the students and live interactive classes for the IAS course. The teachers here are well qualified and help each student in his journey of becoming an IAS officer.

All the best for your exam and have a great future ahead.

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