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What to Read in India’s Struggle for Independence for Prelims and Mains

Must Read for Modern Indian History

Must Read for Modern Indian History

Bipan Chandra’s (and others) India’s Struggle for Independence is a classic book, highly recommended for covering Modern Indian History syllabus not just in Prelims but also in GS Mains paper. That’s why I list this book prominently in my post on Books for Prelims. In this post I list the most important chapters to cover in India’s Struggle for Independence.

Period Covered 

India’s Struggle for Independence covers the period from the Revolt of 1857 till the period just following India’s Independence in 1947. From the point of view of Modern Indian history syllabus, this is quite extensive coverage. For the period since mid-18th century till 1857, I suggest you go through the NCERT text book on Modern India.


Modern Indian History period can be systematically classified in the following topics without following a definite sequence.

  • Revolt of 1857 and resulting changes
  • Socio-Religious Reforms of 19th Century
  • Peasant movements and uprisings of 19th Century
  • Foundation of Indian National Congress (INC)
  • Moderates vs Extremists Divide
  • Press Restrictions in 19th and 20th Centuries
  • Swadeshi Movement
  • Split in Congress and Rise of Revolutionary Terrorism
  • National Movements: Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements
  • Home Rule Movement
  • Gandhi’s Satyagraha’s
  • Revolutionary Terrorism: Ghadar movement, Bhagat Singh, Surya Sen etc.
  • World War I and II and Indian National Movement
  • Peasant movements and Indian nationalism in 20th Century
  • Swarajists and No-Changers
  • Congress Rule in provinces and achievements
  • Indian Capitalists and National Movement
  • Cripps Mission, Cabinet Mission Plan, Mountbatten Plan etc.
  • Role of the Left in India’s National Movement: Subhash Bose and others
  • Factors leading to freedom and partition
  • Social Reform in 20th Century – Dr Ambedkar, Periyar and others

Of all the topics listed above, except for social reform in 20th Century, all other topics are covered in India’s Struggle. These topics are equally important for GS Mains paper and here also India’s Struggle for Independence is very useful.

The best part about this book is its engrossing style. Although this is a multi-author book you will not be able to distinguish the chapters written by different authors since their writing style is so similar. The information is accurate coming as it is from renowned Historians like Bipin Chandra, K.N Panikkar, Mriduala Mahajan, Aditya Mukherjee and Sucheta Mahajan.

Once you start reading the book, you will not realise how quickly you turn the pages since the reading is interesting and History is presented in an engaging-style to hold the readers attention.

How to Read India’s Struggle for Independence

When you read India’s Struggle for the first time you should read it completely, if possible, without thinking too much about what chapters are important and which are less important.

In the second and more serious reading you should underline the important factual data as you encounter it and also try to make a note of chronological events, like for instance, setting up of various reform organizations of the 19th Century.

You can go through the following chapters in passing (from Prelims viewpoint):

  • Economic critique of colonialism
  • Indian working class and national movement
  • Peasant movements in 1930’s and 40’s
  • Communalism chapters
  • Development of Nationalist Foreign Policy
  • Long-term strategy of national movement
  • Ideological dimension of national movement

The chapters listed above are relatively less important compared to the other chapters in this book for IAS history syllabus.

When preparing History for IAS, remember the important facts and the sequence of important events. You should prepare movements separately like the Non-Cooperation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement and Quit India Movement.

Similarly Gandhi’s various satyagrahas like Dandi march, champaran, kheda and Ahmedabad mill workers strike should be prepared separately.

Adopting this method enables you to distinguish between similar events precisely so you don’t get confused during the Prelims or Mains paper.

Finally try to remember salient features of important legislative developments like the Morley-Minto reforms, Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, Govt of India Act 1935 etc. as questions on these are frequently asked in the Prelims.

All in all India’s Struggle for Independence is a highly recommended for covering modern history syllabus for Prelims as well as Mains.

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