History is one of the most popular optional subjects in the IAS exam partly because we all have studied History in our school and/or college days. Also, it is fun and interesting to read with all the historic tales, battles, and cultures to study. This post lists the recommended History optional subject books for IAS Mains exam. The books are categorized as per the syllabus: Ancient, Medieval, Modern History, and World History.
Table of Contents
- 1 Books for Ancient Indian History (Paper 1)
- 2 Books for Medieval History (Paper 1)
- 3 Books for Modern History (Paper 2)
- 4 Book for World History (Paper 2)
Books for Ancient Indian History (Paper 1)
India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma
You should start your History mains preparation with this fundamental book from the celebrated historian RS Sharma. India’s Ancient Past is the elaboration of the old syllabus NCERT from the same author and starts from the pre-historic society and goes right up to the early medieval society.
You will need to read India’s Ancient Past for Prelims and Mains General Studies preparation. So, this is the first book you should get for your History preparation.
A History of Ancient and Medieval India by Upinder Singh
Upinder Singh is a renowned historian and the daughter of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In this book on the History of Ancient and Medival India, Prof. Upinder Singh explains the intricacies of the ancient and medieval Indian societies in startling detail.
The focus is always on presenting accurate and authoritative information about ancient India. If you wish to read history in easy to understand manner, you should definitely read A History of Ancient and Medieval India for your History mains preparation.
The Wonder that was India
AL Basham’s The Wonder that was India is a historical classic and is highly useful for your History optional preparation. It explores the beginnings of the Indus valley civilization, then goes on to explore the Aryan civilization and formation of the present societal structure in the Indian subcontinent.
Books for Medieval History (Paper 1)
Medieval India by Satish Chandra
Just like you started your ancient Indian history preparation with a fundamental book, you should do the same with the medieval Indian history syllabus of IAS mains. Satish Chandra’s Medieval India covers a period of 1000 years with expertise. It starts from the 8th Century history and continues right up to the disintegration of the Mughal empire.
The unique aspect of Satish Chandra’s Medieval History is the detailed explanation of the various attacks that India was subjected to in this period. He also explains the economic, social, and political trends quite skilfully.
There are two other books you can refer for medieval Indian history for IAS mains optional preparation. These books by JL Mehta go into the minute details of events of medieval history and are quite helpful for preparing the history syllabus of IAS mains exam.
- Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India – Volume I – J.L. Mehta
- Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India – Volume II – J.L. Mehta
Also Read: The best books for Prelims and Mains general studies preparation.
Books for Modern History (Paper 2)
There are three books to read for modern Indian history syllabus of IAS mains.
India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra
You should start your modern Indian history preparation with Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence. Bipin Chandra is the renowned historian who has also authored the old syllabus NCERT textbook on modern India.
In this book, Bipin Chandra explores modern Indian history from the 18th Century up to India’s independence in 1947. The best part about India’s Struggle for Independence is the balanced view it offers on the controversial developments during this period which includes the rise of left wing and right wing militancy.
Brief History of Modern India by Spectrum
The second book to read for preparing History for IAS mains is Spectrum’s Brief History of Modern India. This book is a very lucid summary of the developments that took place after the disintegration of the Mughal empire right till the independence period.
The highlight of Brief History of Modern India is its comprehensive coverage of the events of this period in a bulleted reading list which is easy to recollect for students of history.
India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha
The third important book you should read is Ramachandra Guha’s India After Gandhi. As you know, the History optional syllabus of IAS mains exam includes the period after independence. And Guha’s book is the best book you can read to cover the post-independence period.
Whether it is Nehru’s Socialism or the emergency period and its political aftershocks, Ramachandra Guha tackles all these topics with ease in India After Gandhi. This book is regularly updated and includes the period after 2014 which is basically a post-Congress period in India’s political history.
Book for World History (Paper 2)
History of the World by Arjun and Indira Dev
The final book to refer for history mains preparation is Arjun and Indira Dev’s History of the World. Since the paper-2 history syllabus of IAS mains includes the world history topic, you should read this book to cover world history from UPSC’s perspective.
These books are as per the revised History syllabus for IAS Mains and will be useful in your preparation of History optional.