GoGet IAS - History Optional guidance program


GoGet IAS brings you the much-awaited history optional framework for mains 2017. History optional is one of the most sought after optional in UPSC mains examination. So that gets to the main question

Why should you choose history optional?

1.       Everyone has studied history in school and knows something about it.

2.       The subject is plain and simple. It involves

a)      No theories

b)      No doctrines or principles

c)       No technicalities

3.       It has interconnections and linkages with

a)      Preliminary

b)      Mains

c)       Essay

d)      Interview

4.       History is highly scoring. Any average candidates could get 50% marks.

5.       Every year more than 200 selections from history optional in UPSC.


As per the new syllabus 2013

        I.            In preliminary: 18% of the questions are from history.

      II.            In mains: General studies paper 1: History weightage is 130 marks

    III.            Essay: Every year one compulsory history topic (125 marks)

    IV.            Interview: 30% history questions


A comparative analysis between History optional and General studies paper 1

History optional Vs General studies paper 1 comparison

History optional

General studies paper 1

Paper 1
Section A - Ancient India.

Topics: Art and culture of Vedic people, Harappa, Mauryas, and Guptas.

General Studies paper 1
1. Prelims - Ancient India
2. Mains - Indian Heritage & Culture (Ancient  to modern times)

Broadly GS students should cover Art and culture of Vedic people, Harappa, Mauryas, and Guptas.

Paper 1
Section B - Medieval India.

Topics: Culture in the Mughal Empire, Culture in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries (Covers Delhi Sultanate and Vijayanagara empire)

1. Prelims - Medieval India
2. Indian Heritage & Culture (Medieval)

(Broadly GS students should cover Art, Culture, literature forms during Delhi sultanate, Mughals, Vijayanagara times)

Paper 2
Section A - Modern India
(Mid of 18th Century to present)

Topics: European penetration and wars, Social reform movements, various stages of freedom struggle and post independent consolidation.

1. Prelims - Modern India
 (Mid of 18th Century to present)
2. Main - Modern India
 (Mid of 18th Century to present)
3. Main - Freedom struggle
4. Main - Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country
5. Main - Indian heritage & Culture (Modern)

Paper 2
Section A - World History
(18th Century to present)


Topics: industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, capitalism, socialism

History of the world from 18th century till today

Topics: industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society


History optional Syllabus

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 accounts: 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 economic 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 centers; Trade routes; Economic growth; Introduction of coinage; Spread of Jainism and Buddhism; 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 Chalukyas 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: Shankaracharya and Vedanta, Ramanuja and Vishishtadvaita, Madhva and BrahmaMimansa - 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 Gurian 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 measures - Muhammad Tughluq: Major projects, agrarian measures, bureaucracy of Muhammad Tughluq - Firuz Tughluq: 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 and 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 cultural specificities - Literary traditions - Provincial architecture - Society, culture, literature and the arts in Vijayanagara Empire.

20.   Akbar: - Conquests and consolidation of the 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 Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: - Population, agricultural production, craft production - Towns, commerce with Europe through Dutch, English and French companies : a trade revolution - Indian mercantile classes, banking, insurance and credit systems - Condition of peasants, condition of women - Evolution of the Sikh community and the Khalsa Panth

23.   Culture in the Mughal Empire: - Persian histories and other literature - Hindi and other religious literature - 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 politics, culture and economy on the eve of the British conquest


1.       European Penetration into India: The Early European Settlements; The Portuguese and the Dutch; The English and the 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: The early administrative structure; From diarchy to direct control; The Regulating Act (1773); The Pitt’s India Act (1784); The Charter Act (1833); The voice of free trade and the changing character of British colonial rule; The English utilitarian and India.

4.       Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule: (a) Land revenue settlements in British India; The Permanent Settlement; Ryotwari Settlement; Mahalwari Settlement; Economic impact of the revenue arrangements; Commercialization of agriculture; Rise of landless agrarian labourers; Impoverishment of the rural society. (b) Dislocation of traditional trade and commerce; De-industrialisation; Decline of traditional crafts; Drain of wealth; 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; Dayananda Saraswati; The social reform movements in India including Sati, widow remarriage, child marriage etc.; The contribution of Indian renaissance to the growth of modern India; Islamic revivalism – the Feraizi and Wahabi Movements.

7.       Indian Response to British Rule: Peasant movements 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; 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 the 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: (i) Major ideas of Enlightenment: Kant, Rousseau (ii) Spread of Enlightenment in the colonies (iii) Rise of socialist ideas (up to Marx); spread of Marxian Socialism.

17.   Origins of Modern Politics: (i) European States System. (ii) American Revolution and the Constitution. (iii) French revolution and aftermath, 1789-1815. (iv) American Civil War with reference to Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery. (v) British Democratic Politics, 1815- 1850; Parliamentary Reformers, Free Traders, Chartists.

18.   Industrialization: (i) English Industrial Revolution: Causes and Impact on Society (ii) Industrialization in other countries: USA, Germany, Russia, Japan (iii) Industrialization and Globalization.

19.   Nation-State System: (i) Rise of Nationalism in 19th century (ii) Nationalism: state-building in Germany and Italy (iii) Disintegration of Empires in the face of the emergence of nationalities across the world.

20.   Imperialism and Colonialism: (i) South and South-East Asia (ii) Latin America and South Africa (iii) Australia (iv) Imperialism and free trade: Rise of neo-imperialism.

21.   Revolution and CounterRevolution: (i) 19th Century European revolutions (ii) The Russian Revolution of 1917-1921 (iii) Fascist Counter-Revolution, Italy and Germany. (iv) The Chinese Revolution of 1949

22.   World Wars: (i) 1st and 2nd World Wars as Total Wars: Societal implications (ii) World War I: Causes and consequences (iii) World War II: Causes and consequence

23.   The World after World War II: (i) Emergence of two power blocs (ii) Emergence of Third World and non-alignment (iii) UNO and the global disputes.

24.   Liberation from Colonial Rule: (i) Latin America-Bolivar (ii) Arab World-Egypt (iii) Africa-Apartheid to Democracy (iv) South-East Asia-Vietnam

25.   Decolonization and Underdevelopment: (i) Factors constraining development: Latin America, Africa

26.   Unification of Europe: (i) Post War Foundations: NATO and European Community (ii) Consolidation and Expansion of European Community (iii) European Union.

27.   Disintegration of Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World: (i) Factors leading to the collapse of Soviet communism and the Soviet Union, 1985-1991 (ii) Political Changes in Eastern Europe 1989-2001. (iii) End of the cold war and US ascendancy in the World as the lone superpower.


Source Material

Given below are the source materials for history optional guidance program. For all four topics given below, NCERT is the must and post NCERT reading, selectively refer the other standard books given below. Reading of the ALL the books (except NCERT) given in the list is not compulsory. 


1.       NCERT by R.S. Sharma

2.       Ancient India by D.N. Jha

3.       The Wonder  That Was India by A.L. Basham

4.       A History of India by Romila Thapar

           *Reference: IGNOU materials.


        I.            NCERT by Satish Chandra

      II.            Medieval India: Part I and II by Satish Chandra

    III.            Advanced Study in History of Medieval India: Volume I, II and III by J.L. Mehta

    IV.            *Reference: IGNOU materials.

      V.            For Map Questions (Ancient and medieval): Refer GoGet IAS History optional guidance program which was started from Nov 4, 2016. Click here

    VI.            IGNOU materials.

  VII.            Spectrum historical atlas (Maps in all the above mentioned ancient and medieval books)


        I.            NCERT by Bipan Chandra

      II.            India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra

    III.            Post independence:

    IV.            India Since Independence by Bipan Chandra or India After Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha


      V.            Modern India (1885-1947) by Sumith Sarkar

    VI.            IGNOU material

  VII.            A New Look at Modern Indian History by B.L Grover and S.Grover


        I.            World History by M.A.Sadik

      II.            A Study of Modern Europe and the World (1815-1950) by L. Mukherjee

    III.            Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe

*Reference:  IGNOU materials.


How will GoGet IAS help you?

Starting from January 10, GoGet IAS will post 1 history optional question (20 mark question)* every day until May 10 2017.

The following table explains you the timeline.


Date (2017)

World history

Jan 10 - Feb 9

Ancient India

Feb 10 – Mar 09

Medieval India

Mar 10 - Apr 09

Modern India

Apr 10 – May 09



What about the Map question in paper 1?

GoGet IAS has already posted map question on Nov 3, 2016. Every day from (Feb 10 – Mar 09) along with one ancient India question, 10 historical locations will be posted for one month covering 300 locations. Selection of historical locations has been made by our expert team based on previous year question papers.

Aspirants are supposed to write 5 solid points about them and evaluation of Map question will be done on First come first served basis. Peer evaluation is encouraged.


So how will the guidance program work after prelims 2017

Post-Prelims every day starting from June 25, 2017, until October 1st, 2017

Every odd day

One ancient and one medieval (2 questions)

Every even day

One modern and one world history (2 questions)



Post October 1st, 2017.  One Full-length mock test will be conducted on Oct 15, 2017. This mock exam will be almost similar to the final history optional exam.

October 15, 2017

(Ancient and Medieval India) Paper 1 (9.00 am - 12.00 noon)
(Modern India and World history) Paper 2 (2.00pm - 5.00 pm)


Our expert team will evaluate the answers written by aspirants and also provide a skeleton for every question posted the next following day.

At any point in time, if any aspirants has doubts concerning to history optional, they can always feel free to contact us through mail (gogetias@yahoo.com) or through text on telegram (id- @gogetias2017)