For a UPSC CSE aspirant, the optional subject is also an important subject. In the UPSC mains exam, optional marks have two papers, Paper 1 and Paper 2. Each paper is of 250 marks which makes a total of 500 marks. The UPSC optional subject list contains 48 subjects in total, one of which is History.





  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 
    • Arab writers
  1. Pre-history and Proto-history:
  • Geographical factors
  • hunting and gathering (paleolithic and mesolithic)
  • Beginning of agriculture (neolithic and chalcolithic)
  1. Indus Valley Civilization: 
  • Origin, date, extent, characteristics, decline, survival and significance, art, and architecture
  1. Megalithic Cultures:
  • Distribution of pastoral and farming cultures outside the Indus
  • Development of community life
  • Settlements
  • Development of agriculture
  • Crafts, Pottery
  • Iron industry
  1. Aryans and Vedic Period:
  • Expansions of Aryans in India
  • Vedic Period: Religious and philosophic literature
  • The transformation from Rig Vedic period to the later Vedic period
  • Political, social, and economical life
  • Significance of the Vedic Age
  • Evolution of Monarchy and Varna system
  1. Period of Mahajanapadas: 
  • Formation of States (Mahajanapada)  
  • Republics and monarchies
  • Rise of urban centers
  • Trade routes
  • Economic growth
  • Introduction of coinage
  • The spread of Jainism and Buddhism
  • Rise of Magadha and Nandas
  • Iranian and Macedonian invasions and their impact
  1. 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
  • The disintegration of the empire 
  • Sungas and Kanvas
  1. Post – Mauryan Period (Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Kushanas, Western Kshatrapas):
  • Contact with the outside world
  • growth of urban centers
  • economy
  • coinage
  • development of religions
  • Mahayana
  • social conditions
  • art, architecture
  • culture, literature, and science
  1. 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
  1. Guptas, Vakatakas and Vardhanas: 
  • Polity and administration
  • Economic conditions, Coinage of the Guptas
  • Land grants, Decline of urban centers
  • Indian feudalism
  • Caste system
  • Position of women 
  • Education and educational institutions
  • Nalanda, Vikramshila and Vallabhi, Literature, scientific literature, art, and architecture.
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. Early Medieval India, 750-1200:
  2. i) 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 

ii) Society: 

  • the status of the Brahman and the new social order 
  • Condition of women 
  • Indian science and technology
  1. Cultural Traditions in India, 750- 1200:
  2. i) Philosophy:
  • Shankaracharya and Vedanta
  • Ramanuja and Vishishtadvaita
  • Madhva and BrahmaMimansa 

ii) Religion: 

  • Forms and features of religion
  • Tamil devotional cult, growth of Bhakti
  • Islam and its arrival in India
  •  Sufism 

iii) Literature: 

  • Literature in Sanskrit
  • growth of Tamil literature
  •  literature in the newly developing languages
  • Kalhan’s Rajtarangini
  • Alberuni’s India

iv)  Art and Architecture: 

  • Temple architecture
  • sculpture
  • painting
  1. The Thirteenth Century:
  2. i) Establishment of the Delhi Sultanate: 
  • The Ghurian invasions 
  • factors behind Ghurian success 
  • Economic, social and cultural consequences 

ii) Foundation of Delhi Sultanate and early Turkish Sultans 

  • Consolidation
  • The rule of Iltutmish and Balban

17. The Fourteenth Century:

  •  “The Khalji Revolution” 
  • Alauddin Khalji: Conquests and territorial expansion, agrarian and economic measures
  • Muhammad Tughluq: Major projects, agrarian measures, the bureaucracy of Muhammad Tughluq
  • Firuz Tughluq: Agrarian measures, achievements in civil engineering and public works
  • The decline of the Sultanate
  • foreign contacts and Ibn Battuta’s account

18. Society, Culture and Economy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries:

i) Society:

  • composition of rural society, ruling classes, town dwellers, women, religious classes, caste, and slavery under the Sultanate
  • Bhakti movement
  • Sufi movement 

ii) 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  

iii) Economy: 

  • Agricultural production
  • rise of urban economy and non-agricultural production
  • trade and commerce

18. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century

i) Political Developments and Economy:

  • Rise of Provincial Dynasties
  • Bengal, Kashmir (Zainul Abedin)
  •  Gujarat, Malwa, Bahmanids 
  • The Vijayanagar Empire 
  • Lodis 
  • Mughal Empire

ii) 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

i) Society and Culture: 

  • Regional cultural specificities 
  • Literary traditions 
  • Provincial architecture 
  • Society, culture, literature, and the arts in the Vijayanagara Empire
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. Economy and Society in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries:
  • Population, agricultural production, craft production 
  • Towns, commerce with Europe through Dutch, English and French companies:
  • 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
  1. 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
  1. 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 
  • The 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
  1. British Expansion in India:
  • Bengal – Mir Jafar and Mir Kasim
  • The Battle of Buxar; Mysore
  • The Marathas
  • The three Anglo-Maratha Wars
  •  Punjab
  1. 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
  1. Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule: 

(a) Land revenue settlements in British India;

  •  The Permanent Settlement
  • Ryotwari Settlement
  • Mahalwari Settlement
  • The economic impact of the revenue arrangements
  • Commercialization of agriculture
  • Rise of landless agrarian laborers
  • The impoverishment of the rural society

(b) Dislocation of traditional trade and commerce

  • De-industrialization
  • The decline of traditional crafts
  • Drain of wealth
  • The 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
  1. 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
  1. Social and Religious Reform movements in Bengal and Other Areas: 
  • Ram Mohan Roy
  • The Brahmo Movement 
  • Devendranath Tagore
  • Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
  • The Young Bengal Movement
  • Dayananda Saraswati
  • The social reform movements in India including Sati, widow remarriage, child marriage, etc.
  • The contribution of the Indian renaissance to the growth of modern India
  • Islamic revivalism – the Feraizi and Wahabi Movements
  1. 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
  1. 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
  • Program 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 the Swadeshi Movement 
  • The beginning of revolutionary extremism in India
  1. Rise of Gandhi;
  • The 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
  1. Constitutional Developments in the Colonial India between 1858 and 1935
  2. 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
  1. Politics of Separatism
  • the Muslim League 
  • the Hindu Mahasabha
  • Communalism and the politics of partition
  • Transfer of power
  • Independence
  1. Consolidation as a Nation
  • Nehru’s Foreign Policy
  • India and her neighbors (1947-1964)
  • The linguistic reorganization of States (1935-1947)
  • Regionalism and regional inequality
  • Integration of Princely States
  • Princes in electoral politics
  • the Question of National Language
  1. Caste and Ethnicity after 1947
  • Backward castes and tribes in post-colonial electoral politics
  • Dalit movements
  1. 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
  1. 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.
  1. Origins of Modern Politics: 
  • European States System
  • American Revolution and the Constitution
  • French revolution and aftermath, 1789-1815
  • American Civil War with reference to Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery
  • British Democratic Politics, 1815- 1850; Parliamentary Reformers, Free Traders, Chartists
  1. Industrialization: 

(i) English Industrial Revolution: 

  • Causes and Impact on Society 

(ii) Industrialization in other countries: 

  • USA, Germany, Russia, Japan 

(iii) Industrialization and Globalization

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. Revolution and Counter Revolution: 

(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

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. Liberation from Colonial Rule:

(i) Latin America-Bolivar 

(ii) Arab World-Egypt 

(iii) Africa-Apartheid to Democracy 

(iv) South-East Asia-Vietnam

  1. Decolonization and Underdevelopment:

 (i) Factors constraining development: Latin America, Africa

  1. Unification of Europe: 

(i) Post War Foundations: NATO and European Community

 (ii) Consolidation and Expansion of European Community 

(iii) European Union.

  1. 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.

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