UPSC History Optional Syllabus

History Optional Syllabus

In this article, we will delve into the UPSC History optional syllabus, offering you a comprehensive guide to help you navigate through this subject effectively.

History Optional, the study of the past, offers a profound perspective on human civilization, societies, and cultures.

Welcome to Rau’s IAS, your trusted partner on the path to success in the UPSC CSE Exam. Choosing the right optional subject is a crucial decision that can significantly impact your performance in the exam.

History Syllabus for UPSC Optional (Paper-I)

  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 account: Greek, Chinese and Arab writers.
  2. Pre-history and Proto-history: Geographical factors; hunting and gathering (paleolithic and mesolithic); Beginning of agriculture (neolithic and chalcolithic)
  3. Indus Valley Civilization: Origin, date, extent, characteristics-decline, survival and significance, art and architecture.
  4. Megalithic Cultures: 
    • Distribution of pastoral and farming cultures outside the Indus,
    • Development of community life, Settlements, Development of agriculture, Crafts, Pottery, and Iron industry.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 Buddism; Rise of Magadha and Nandas.
    • Iranian and Macedonian invasions and their impact.
  7. 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.
  8. Post-Mauryan Period (Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Kushanas, Western Kshatrapas): Contact with outside world; growth of urban centres, economy, coinage, development of religions, Mahayana, social conditions, art, architecture, culture, literature, and science.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 Chaluky as 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.
  12. 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. 
  13. 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.
  14. 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. 
  15. 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.
  16. The Fourteenth Century:
    • “The Khalji Revolution”.
    • Alauddin Khalji: Conquests and territorial expansion, agrarian and economic measure.
    • Muhammad Tughluq: Major projects, agrarian measures, bureaucracy of Muhammad Tughluq. 
    • Firuz Tugluq: Agrarian measures, achievements in civil engineering and public works, decline of the Sultanate, foreign contacts and Ibn Battuta’s account.
  17. 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.
  18. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century-Political Developments and Economy:
    • Rise of Provincial Dynasties: Bengal, Kashmir (Zainul Abedin), Gujarat.
    • Malwa, Bahmanids.
    • The Vijayanagara Empire.
    • Lodis. — Mughal Empire, First phase: Babur, Humayun. 
    • The Sur Empire: Sher Shah’s administration. 
    • Portuguese colonial enterprise, Bhakti, and Sufi Movements. 
  19. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century- Society and culture:
    • Regional cultures specificities.
    • Literary traditions. 
    • Provincial architectural. 
    • Society, culture, literature, and the arts in Vijayanagara Empire.
  20. Akbar:
    • Conquests and consolidation of 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Economy and society, in the 16th and 17th Centuries:
    • Population Agricultural and craft production. 
    • Towns, commerce with Europe through Dutch, English and French companies: a trade revolution.
    • Indian mercantile classes. Banking, insurance, and credit systems. 
    • Conditions of peasants, Condition of Women. 
    • Evolution of the Sikh community and the Khalsa Panth. 
  23. Culture during Mughal Empire:
    • Persian histories and other literature. 
    • Hindi and religious literatures. 
    • Mughal architecture. 
    • Mughal painting
    • Provincial architecture and painting. 
    • Classical music. 
    • Science and technology. 
  24. 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, political, cultural, and economic, on eve of the British conquest.

Here’s an explanation of the topics covered in Paper 1

  1. Prehistoric Period and Indus Valley Civilization:
    • This section begins with the study of early human societies and the development of human civilization. It delves into the prehistoric era, which predates written history.
    • The focus then shifts to the Indus Valley Civilization, one of the world’s earliest urban cultures. It covers aspects such as its culture, trade networks, and the factors contributing to its decline.
  2. Vedic, Mauryan, and Gupta Periods:
  3. Early and Medieval Indian Society:
    • This section focuses on the development of social and cultural institutions in ancient and medieval India. It examines various aspects of society, including caste systems, religion, and cultural practices.
    • The socio-political landscape during the medieval period is explored, offering insights into the dynamics of governance, society, and culture during this time.
  4. Cultural and Economic Contacts with the Outside World:
    • This part looks at India’s interactions with neighboring regions and the broader world. It includes the study of trade routes, cultural exchanges, and their impact on Indian society.
    • The section also discusses the influence of foreign powers and their contributions to India’s history and culture.

History Syllabus for UPSC Optional (Paper-I)

  1. European Penetration into India:
    • The Early European Settlements;
    • The Portuguese and the Dutch;
    • The English and 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
  2. British Expansion in India:
    • Bengal-Mir Jafar and Mir Kasim; The Battle of Buxar;
    • Mysore;
    • The Marathas, The three Anglo-Maratha Wars;
    • The Punjab.
  3. Early Structure of the British Raj:
  4. Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule:
    • Land revenue settlements in British India;
    • The Permanent Settlement, Ryotwari Settlement, Mahalwari Settlement;
    • The economic impact of the revenue arrangements;
    • Commercialisation of agriculture;
    • Rise of landless agrarian labourers;
    • The impoverishment of rural society.
    • Dislocation of traditional trade and commerce;
    • De-industrialisation; Decline of traditional crafts;
    • Drain of wealth;
    • The 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 the Indian Renaissance to the growth of modern India; 
    • Islamic revivalism-the Feraizi and Wahabi Movements.
  7. Indian Response to British Rule:
    • Peasant movement 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Rise of Gandhi;
    • The 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.
  10. Constitutional Developments in Colonial India between 1858 and 1935.
  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.
  12. Politics of Separatism; the Muslim League; the Hindu Mahasabha;
    • Communalism and the politics of partition;
    • Transfer of power; Independence.
  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.
  14. Caste and Ethnicity after 1947;
    • Backward Castes and Tribes in post-colonial electoral politics;
    • Dalit movements.
  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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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, and Chartists.
  18. Industrialisation:
    • English Industrial Revolution: Causes and Impact on Society.
    • Industrialisation in other countries: USA, Germany, Russia, Japan.
    • Industrialisation and Globalization.
  19. Nation-State System:
    • Rise of Nationalism in the 19th Century.
    • Nationalism: State-building in Germany and Italy.
    • The disintegration of Empires in the face of the emergence of nationalities across the World.
  20. Imperialism and Colonialism:
    • South and South-East Asia.
    • Latin America and South Africa.
    • Australia.
    • Imperialism and free trade: Rise of neo-imperialism.
  21. 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.
  22. World Wars:
    • 1st and 2nd World Wars as Total Wars: Societal Implications
    • World War I: Causes and Consequences.
    • World War II: Causes and Consequences.
  23. The World after World War II:
    • The emergence of Two power blocs.
    • The emergence of Third World and non-alignment.
    • UNO and the global disputes.
  24. Liberation from Colonial Rule:
    • Latin America-Bolivar.
    • Arab World-Egypt.
    • Africa-Apartheid to Democracy.
    • South-East Asia-Vietnam.
  25. Decolonization and Underdevelopment:
    • Factors constraining Development; Latin America, Africa.
  26. Unification of Europe:
    • Post-War Foundations; NATO and European Community.
    • Consolidation and Expansion of the European Community
    • European Union.
  27. The Disintegration of the 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 East Europe (1989-2001).
    • End of the Cold War and US Ascendancy in the World as the lone superpower.

Here’s an explanation of the topics covered in Paper 2

  1. European Penetration and British Conquest:
    • This section examines the arrival of European powers in India and their gradual expansion during the colonial period.
    • It focuses on British colonialism, detailing the conquest, colonization, and its consequences on Indian society, economy, and governance.
  2. Socio-Religious Reform Movements and Indian Response to British Rule:
    • This part explores the socio-religious reform movements that emerged in response to various social and cultural issues in India during the colonial period. Prominent reformers and their contributions are discussed.
    • It also covers Indian responses to British rule, including early nationalist movements and the political awakening of the Indian masses.
  3. Indian Nationalist Movement (1885-1947):
    • This section provides a comprehensive analysis of the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League, and other political organizations that played key roles in the struggle for independence.
    • It traces the evolution of strategies and ideologies that ultimately led to India’s independence from British rule.
  4. Post-Independence Consolidation and Reorganization:
    • The final section focuses on the challenges faced by independent India after gaining freedom from colonial rule.
    • It covers efforts towards nation-building, economic development, and political integration in the post-independence period.

Mastering the UPSC History Optional Syllabus requires a deep understanding of India’s rich historical heritage, from its ancient civilizations to its modern struggles for independence and post-independence development. At Rau’s IAS, we are committed to providing you with the best resources and guidance to excel in this subject.

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