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History Books for UPSC: Best Modern, World and Ancient History Books for IAS Exam

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 13th, 2023

History Books for UPSC essentially cover ancient history, modern history, world history, and Indian history. History books play a vital role in the UPSC exam, as the subject is relevant at all three stages. Some of the best history books for UPSC exam preparation are India’s Ancient Past, The Story of Civilization, Brief History of Modern India, and A Brief History Of Modern India By Spectrum.

History is an important subject of the CSE and it is imperative for the aspirants to have a list of all essential UPSC History Books. In addition, and to make it easier for you, we have listed the best books to prepare all the major sections of the history syllabus.

History Books for UPSC

It is important to understand UPSC History Syllabus before you choose the ideal History books for UPSC Exam. History is a part of prelims, mains, and optional subjects. Candidates preparing for the upcoming exam must understand the difference in the scope of the syllabus and choose the books wisely.

History Books for UPSC PDF

To make things convenient for the candidates, we have categorized the History Books for UPSC into four parts. Candidates can check out highly recommended history books category-wise below.

  • Ancient History Books
  • World History Books
  • Modern History Books
  • Indian History Books

Ancient History Books for UPSC

Ancient history deals with past events from the beginning of writing and recorded human history until the early middle ages. Here are some of the best History Books for UPSC to cover this section. Starting from some basic reads to standard reads, this list covers all of them.

  • NCERT Class XI Ancient India
  • NCERT Class XII Theme in Indian History- I
  • The Wonder That Was India – A.L. Basham
  • India’s Ancient Past- Ram Sharan Sharma

World History Book for UPSC

World History Books for UPSC contain topics from world history events such as Europe Unification, World War, Liberation from Colonial Rule, and more. Here is a list of history books that would help you cover all the topics from world history.

  • Europe Since 1815 – W.C. Craig
  • Europe Since 1870 – James Joll.
  • Europe Since Napoleon – David Thompson
  • The Story of Civilization, Part 2 by Arjun Dev, NCERT
  • Contemporary World History for class XII (Old NCERT Book)
  • Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe
  • Mastering Modern World History – Norman Lowe

Modern History Book for UPSC

Modern history elaborates on the history of the world beginning after the middle ages. It mainly focuses on the concerts and notions of political history and cultural and social development worldwide.

Below are some of the best History Books that cover this section.

  • A Brief History of Modern India
  • NCERT Class XI Modern India- Bipan Chandra
  • India After Gandhi – Ramchandra Guha
  • History Of Modern India – Bipan Chandra
  • Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania
  • From Plassey to Partition
  • History of Modern World – Jain and Mathu
  • Mastering Modern World History-Norman Lowe

Indian History Books for UPSC

Indian history covers a big portion of the History Syllabus, so you need to prepare properly for this section. Here are the best History Books for UPSC that will help you prepare for Indian history.

  • India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma
  • History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra
  • History of Modern India by Bipan Chandra
  • India’s Struggle For Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania
  • India After Independence: Bipan Chandra
  • The Wonder That Was India: AL Basham
  • India After Gandhi: Ramachandra Guha
  • Ancient and Medieval India: Poonam Dalal Dahiya

History Books for UPSC Prelims

The UPSC Prelims Syllabus for History covers modern history, ancient history, and medieval history. Below are some of the Best History Books for UPSC that cover these topics.

  • India’s Ancient Past by R. S. Sharma
  • History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra
  • A Brief History of Modern India
  • NCERT Class XI Modern India- Bipan Chandra

History Books for UPSC Mains

NCERT History Books are good enough for UPSC prelims, but when it comes to the UPSC Mains Syllabus, candidates need to jump into some advanced history books as the questions in the Mains round require in-depth knowledge of the subject.

The history syllabus for Mains comprises modern history, modern world history, modern Indian history, medieval history, and ancient Indian history.

Here are some of the best History Books for UPSC that you can cover for the Mains exam.

UPSC History Books Category Best History Books for UPSC Mains
Modern History Books History of Modern World – Jain and Mathur
Modern Indian History Books India After Gandhi – Ramchandra Guha

History Of Modern India – Bipan Chandra

Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania

From Plassey to Partition

World History Book for UPSC Mains Mastering Modern World History-Norman Lowe
Ancient Indian History Books India’s Ancient Past- RS Sharma

The Wonder That Was India – A.L. Basham

Best Indian History Books for UPSC Optional

Those candidates who have opted for history optional have to pick the best History Books for UPSC. As per UPSC Previous Year Question Paper analysis, questions from the history optional were found to have a difficulty level of moderate to difficult. That is why it is crucial for the candidates to have an in-depth study of history from the following History Optional Books for Mains.

  • A New Look at Modern Indian History From 1707 to the Modern Times- Alka Mehta and B L Grover S
  • Mastering Modern World History- Norman Lowe (Best book for World History)
  • The Penguin History Of Early India: From The Origins To AD 1300- Romila Thapar
  • History of Medieval India- Satish Chandra
  • History Of Modern India- Bipan Chandra
  • India’s Ancient Past- Ram Sharan Sharma
  • Age of Revolution 1789-1848- Eric Hobsbawm
  • Age Of Capital: 1848-1875 (History of Civilization)- Eric Hobsbawm
  • Age of Capital -E.J. Hobsbawm
  • Age of Empires -E.J. Hobsbawm
  • Age of Revolution- E.J. Hobsbawm
  • Contemporary World History (NCERT) -Arjun Dev
  • Modern Indian History- Bipan Chandra
  • The social basis of Democracy & Dictatorship -B.J. Moore
  • The Mainstream of Civilization -Strayer, Gatzke & Harbison
  • The Story of Civilization, Vol. 2 (NCERT) -Arjun Dev
  • Europe Since 1815 -W.C. Craig
  • Europe Since 1870 -James Joll.
  • Europe Since Napoleon -David Thompson
  • Industry & Empire -E.J. Hobsbawm

How to Read History Books for UPSC Exam?

When preparing from the History Books for UPSC, many aspirants make the common mistake of jumping onto the standard books without building a strong foundation. A subject like history requires a deep understanding of topics, and no one can fetch good marks on this paper with rote memorization.

And that is why we have prepared a strategy to help you cover the history books correctly.

  • Before jumping to any book, go through the PYQ Papers at least 2 to 3 times to understand the depth of questions.
  • Start with NCERT Books, as they will help you to clear your basics. We have provided all the NCERT Notes required for history.
  • After completing the NCERT history books, you can start reading the standard preparation books.
  • Don’t cover one topic from multiple books at a time. Stick to limited resources.
  • Solve ample UPSC Mocks tests as many times as possible.
UPSC Articles
CSAT Books for UPSC Tamil Nadu History Book
Ancient History UPSC Notes Modern History UPSC Notes
Art and Culture Books for UPSC Ethics Books for UPSC
Management Optional Books for UPSC Geography Books for UPSC
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