History of India can be divided into 3 sections – Ancient, Medieval and Modern. A significant weightage has been given to History over the years. Modern India is the most important section from the prelims perspective. The weightage given to this section over the years stands testimony to the significance of this section. As per the recent trend, at least 15-20% weightage is given to History, but then History is a very ‘vast’ subject. A plethora of questions keep bombarding your head – How do I read History? What to focus on? Will I be able to cover the entire syllabus?

The answer to all your confusion is here – You have to think smart!

From the previous year papers analysis, we have observed that more weightage is given to ‘Modern History’. So to make the maximum benefit for the time invested, ‘prioritize’ in this order- Modern, Ancient and Medieval History.

In this article, to ease your preparation we have divided History into 3 Sections – Modern, Ancient, and Medieval.


  • Emergence of regional powers in the early decades of 18th Century is taken as a change from the Medieval to Modern India.
  • The early modern India witnessed the fall of the great Mughal Empire, the Marathas and Consolidation of British rule in India.
  • The mid-phase marks the struggle of Indians- revolt of 1857 (or the First War of Independence), organisation of Indian National Congress, role of Moderates and the Extremists.
  • The last stage stands testimony to various National Movements –Civil Disobedience Movements, Quit India Movement, Formation of Constitution Assembly and Sampoorna Swaraj (or Complete Independence) to India.

Note: However, questions at times are tricky, as the options given in the questions are very close to the correct choice. This creates ambiguity in the mind of the aspirant often leaving them confused.

How to read Modern History?

In Modern History, you’ll come across various revolts/movements/agitations (like 1857 revolt, Tebhaga Peasant Movement, Home Rule Movement, Quit India Movement).

What You need to Focus here is

  • The Purpose of the movement
  • The Reasons which led to the movement
  • The Consequences of the movement
  • The people who participated in this movement
  • Famous Personalities involved in the movement and their contribution
  • The role of Press and Literature

Note: Also note down the ‘chronology’ of the major Movements and Missions sent by the British to gain support of the Indians and extend their rule.

Type of Administration (Revenue, Military)


  • Type of Administration followed during The Mughal’s rule. Example: Mansabdari System, Jagirdhari – its significance and impact.
  • The British rule. Example: Subsidiary alliance, Permanent Settlement, Mahalwari system etc. – its significance and impact.
  • Similarities and Differences between the Mughal and the British Administration
  • Consolidation of the British rule in India – through enactment of various Acts/Laws (Regulation Act, 1773 to Indian Independence Act, 1947).

At least two to three important changes/provisions made under each Act and the Governor Generals involved should be noted down. And also the impact of the Act should be given importance.

Example: Under Charter Act, 1833- The East Indian Company’s monopoly over tea and China was ended. Lord William Bentinck was the Governor General then and he was instrumental in abolition of ‘sati’ system.

Colonial Rule in India


  • Political-Administrative organization, Policies of the British India.
  • Social, Economic setup like Agrarian Systems (Example: Permanent Settlement)
  • Important Reports, Sessions, Acts, Committees setup during the British period

Note: Give special importance to Events, Movements (including Tribal, Peasant and Trade Union Movements) and Acts passed after Revolt of 1857.

Religious and Social Reform Movements (from 1800 AD to 1947 AD)

This is another important section of Indian National Movement from the Prelims point of view.


  • The Ideological base – rationalism, humanism and universalism
  • Reform Movements like Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, Theosophical Society, Harijan Movement etc.
  • who started these movements, what was the objective and emphasis of these movements
  • How these movements were important in building a sense of nationalism among Indians.
  • Social reforms that had an impact on Education, Status of Women, Caste system of the society.

Note: Give special importance to Events, Movements (including Tribal, Peasant and Trade Union Movements) and Acts passed after Revolt of 1857.

Famous Personalities

(Mahatma Gandhi, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Subash Chandra Bose, Dadabhai Naoroji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bhagat Singh, Annie Besant etc)


  • Their contributions – literature, organization of movements and their role in India’s Freedom Struggle


How to study Ancient History?

The ancient History starts from the earliest time to the middle of 8th Century AD.

Prehistoric Period – Stone Age, Paleolithic Age, Mesolithic Age, Neolithic Age, Chalcolithic Age


  • On what basis is the Prehistoric period classified.
  • The mode of living of people like hunting, domestication.

Indus Valley Civilization/ Harappan Civilization (2500 BC- 1500 BC)


  • The lifestyle of people during this period- Social, Economic (agriculture, trade and commerce), Religious and Cultural activities.
  • Important Harappa sites and its significance. Example: Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa and others.
  • Script and language used during IVC.
  • Art and Crafts- seals, pottery etc.
  • Why did the civilization decline?

Vedic Period (1500 BC- 1000 BC))


  • Society (people and their lifestyle)- family, marriage, status of women, caste system or social divisions.
  • Economic Life and Political Organisation.
  • Culture and Religion
  • Literature during Vedic times – Vedas, Upanishads, Dharma Shastras, Puranas and Six systems of Philosophy.
  • Important Gods worshipped and their significance to Vedic people.
  • Differences between Early and Later Vedic Society and life styles followed.

Note: Terms like Purohita, Jana or Kula- UPSC has started picking such terms and asking simple questions based on the term. You should be prepared not to miss these questions.

Buddhism and Jainism


  • Reasons for the growth of such religious movements
  • Buddha and Mahavira -their Believes (in Nirvana, Law of Karma etc.),their Contributions, Teachings, Philosophy, Literature.
  • Important Events during their Life (Enlightenment); Buddhist and Jaina Councils.
  • Types of Bhuddhism – Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana (their believes and differences among them)
  • Two Sects of Jainism – Svetamabara and Digambara; Ajivikas
  • Differences between Jainism and Buddhism
  • Causes of Decline of Buddhism and Janism

Kingdoms/Empires during the Ancient Period

During the Ancient times, we come across different Empires and Dynastic rule-

The Mauryan Empire, Guptas, Sunga, Kanva dynasties’, Satavahanas, Rastrakutas, Pallavas, Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas , Chalukyas.

While studying these Kingdoms, you have to focus on the following aspects:

  • The rise of the Empires – causes, impact.
  • Important Rulers – Chandra Gupta Maurya, Ashoka (Ashoka’s Dhamma, Edicts and important sites where they were found) and their contribution to the society, art and culture.
  • The Economic and Social Conditions during the rule
  • Art and Architecture
  • Literature -Famous literary works – Kalidasa’s ‘Abhigyanashakuntalam’ etc.
  • Development of Science and technology – Aryabhatta’s ‘Suryasiddhanta’ etc.
  • The Decline of the empires – causes
  • Foreign travelers and their works Example: Chinese traveler Fahein’s account of India during in the 5th

Note:Special importance should be given to Mauryan and Gupta’s time


The Medieval History begins from the middle of 8th Century AD to the start of 18th Century AD. Question’s from Medieval History is limited, unlike Ancient and Modern History. This is evident from the year on year analysis of the previous year Question-paper.But then you never know, UPSC can spring out surprises. Many aspirants skip this section, but you can smartly Focus on certain topics and leave no stone unturned in your preparation.

How to Read Medieval History?

1. Religious movements


  • Sufi and Bhakti Movements and Saints(special importance to Women Saints) – their doctrines and practices
  • revival of Hinduism (by Adi Sankaracharya)
  • Impact of these movements.

2. Ruler’s/Empires (from Delhi Sultanates to Mughals)

(You don’t have to remember the name of the rulers, dates)

What you have to focus on is:

  • Political, Social, Economic organization during different ruler’s- the Delhi Sultanates, Vijayanagar Empire and the Bahamani Kingdoms, Mughals etc.
  • Art and Architecture during different rulers (especially during Mughal rule)
  • The rise and decline of different empires’ and dynasties’ – Causes

Note: Going by the recent trend, Dates, Places and Kings have lost relevance in the prelims exam.

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