How to study Indian History for IAS Exam

How to study Indian History for IAS Exam
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Here we are discussing How to study Indian History for IAS Exam? Most asked questions have been answered in this article.


As we live our lives in the present and read about the happenings around the world in newspapers, we do not usually pause to think about the long history of these events. We see change before our eyes, but do not always ask, why are things changing? Very often we do not even notice that things were not the same in the past. History is about tracking these changes, understanding how and why they are taking place, how the present world in which we live has evolved. The subject of Modern Indian History has always occupied a dominant space in both the Preliminary as well as Mains Civil Services Examination of the UPSC.

Our History notes and lectures would cover the preliminary and mains syllabus exhaustively and also focus on generating interest and developing conceptual clarity. Using basic concepts and chronological events we shall seek to understand the broader themes and cross-connections amongst them as a focus area, more so if the current trends are kept in mind.

How to study Indian History for IAS Exam

If you are one of those students –

  • Who has a ‘Historo-Phobia’ – to mean that History is all about cramming events with endless dates and terrorizing names, which in the end becomes all too boring and tedious.
    OR
  • Who are still confused as to what is so significant about Mangal Pandey that Aamir Khan choose to make a whole movie about him or what was so special about Gandhiji that we have him on every currency note or why do we celebrate 26th January when we already have 15th August or why we call West Bengal as ‘West’ while it is in geographical East direction (If you think they are easy questions, try writing these in 200 words)
    OR
  • Who wish to go through the complete history syllabus quickly to get a kick start and gain some confidence in UPSC journey preparation.

For such students, as a starting point, we are providing the following basic readings from NCERTs, which
you are expected to complete before the Classroom Sessions begin.

How to study Indian History for IAS Exam

You can start with Old NCERT for Class X – The Story of Civilization Part 2 by Arjun Dev. The last two
chapters of this book, Chapter-15, ‘India Awakening’ and Chapter-16, ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ cover all the major events in Indian History from the 18th century to Independence. The idea is, to read it not like a textbook but like a storybook. Don’t try to learn, memorize or make notes but just enjoy reading these 55 pages like a short story. After giving a reading or two, in case you feel the need, you should go through the questions at the end of these chapters and try to correlate them with the story you have just read. At the end of this, the ONLY thing which you are expected of- is a good feel for history and a broad picture covering all the major events.

Next, one can read the Old NCERT for Class XII, the book ‘History of Modern India’ by Bipin Chandra, now being published by Orient Blackswan. This book is the basic text which needs to be compulsorily read as it matches completely, with the demand of the syllabus of GS Modern Indian History. You make skip making notes of this book, as the whole book is at best, a summary of Modern Indian history.

How to study Indian History for IAS Exam

Note – Students who are quite familiar with Modern Indian History can directly start with this book,
skipping the Class X NCERT.

While going through Chapter 1, there are lot many facts and events given; however just push yourself through this chapter while understanding the major players in that phase. From Chapter 2 onwards, you shall notice that you can start filling the gaps in the broad picture you have in your mind. Later you can try writing answers to the questions given at the end of each chapter (They are given in the Old NCERT book only). Be sure to revise this book at least once before moving to next book.

Now arises the question of how to complete these readings before the Classroom Sessions begin. One way to cover these would be to design your personal study program. Try to create a schedule: an orderly, systematic approach is not only beneficial but also critical in an examination like the UPSC CSE. Preferably dedicate a consistent block of time every day of the week.

How to study Indian History for IAS Exam

As you now flow along the Classroom sessions, you can start identifying the major themes that run through these critical events. Some examples of these themes can be taken from the ‘new’ NCERT for Class XII on Indian History. An insight will help you connect the dots to build up the thematic content. However, the ‘Bible of Modern Indian History’ – India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra is sure an aid in crystallizing such themes, their forward and backward linkages and cross-connections across time-periods.

If you still have the appetite to read through more books, you may go through the book Plassey to Partition’ by Sekhar Bandopadhyay. This book will give you multiple perspectives about the same event and hence will further enhance your understanding.

How to study Indian History for IAS Exam

There is one specific portion of syllabus related to the famous personalities of India’s freedom struggle. While going through various textbooks you should keep track of these personalities, sometimes whose contributions may also be scattered across many chapters. You should also keep an eye on the articles in the newspaper about such personalities from the past. These articles highlight the contribution of such personalities in a consolidated form and some articles are about less famous personalities as well, which otherwise may not be adequately covered in the textbooks.

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