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10 Best Books to Study Indian History for UPSC CSE

From Bipan Chandra to Ramachandra Guha - find out the must-read books when studying history for UPSC exams.

10 Best Books to Study Indian History for UPSC CSE

There are lakhs of aspirants who apply for the Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC) Civil Service Examination (CSE) each year. Before embarking on the preparatory journey, each aspirant draws up a list of books to study from.

So, here’s a list of 10 books that one could refer to while preparing for Indian History.

1. India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma

India’s Ancient Past – R S Sharma

This book presents a complete and accessible description of the history of early India. It starts by discussing the origins and growth of civilisations, empires and religions. It also deals with the geographical, ecological, and linguistic backgrounds, and looks at specific cultures of the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Vedic periods, as well as at the Harappan civilization.

In addition, the rise of Jainism and Buddhism, Magadha and the beginning of territorial states, the period of Mauryas, Central Asian countries, Satvahanas, Guptas, and Harshavardhana are also analysed. Next, it stresses the varna system, urbanisation, commerce and trade, developments in science and philosophy and cultural legacy.

Finally, the process of transition from ancient to medieval India and the origin of the Aryan culture has also been examined.

Click here to buy this book.

2. History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra

History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra

Satish Chandra’s History of Medieval India is a comprehensive overview of the history of the Indian subcontinent between the 8th and 18th centuries. It focuses on:

  • The histories of the Chola, Bahmani and Vijayanagara kingdoms
  • The influence exerted by the Surs, Lodis, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals
  • The importance of the Rajput kings and the Marathas
  • Religious movements, such as Sufism and the Bhakti movement
  • The changing political, economic and agrarian scene.

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3. History of Modern India by Bipan Chandra

History of Modern India by Bipan Chandra

History of Modern India presents what is arguably an authoritative overview of the historical period known as British India. It moves away from a largely political narrative to offer:

  • An explanation of conditions in 18th-century India that helped the British East India Company establish its rule.
  • Important insights into the primary aim of colonial rule:
  • The economic exploitation of India through trade and investment
  • A detailed account of the nationalist movement
  • An introduction to significant freedom fighters.

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4. India’s Struggle For Independence by Bipan Chandra

India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra

This book by Bipan Chandra is a go-to book for an in-depth and detailed overview of the Indian independence movement. The Indian freedom struggle is one of the most important parts of its history. A lot has been written and said about it, but there remains a gap. Rarely do we get to hear accounts of the independence from the entire country and not just one region at one place.

This book fits in perfectly in this gap and also provides a narration on the impact this movement had on the people. Bipin Chandra’s book is a well-documented history of India’s freedom struggle against British rule. It is one of the most accurate books which have been painstakingly written after thorough research based on legal and valid verbal and written sources.

It maps the first war of independence that started with Mangal Pandey’s mutiny and witnessed the gallant effort of Sri Rani Laxmi Bai. Many of the pages of this book are dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation and the civil disobedience movements. It contains a detailed description of Subash Chandra Bose’s weapon heavy tactics and his charisma. This book includes all the independence movements and fights, irrespective of their size and impact, covering India in its entirety.

It is a good read for the students of Indian modern history and especially for students who are preparing for the UPSC examination and have taken History as their subject.

Click here to buy this book.

5. Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania

Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania

The author has provided a wide-ranged knowledge base on Indian art, paintings, music and architecture with the help of several pictures and diagrams which he believes will help arouse the reader’s interest. The content is also supported with a plethora of questions that will help students to prepare for the examination.

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6. India After Independence: Bipan Chandra

India After Independence by Bipan Chandra

The story of the forging of India, the world’s largest democracy, is a rich and inspiring one. This volume, a sequel to the best-selling India’s Struggle for Independence, analyses the challenges India has faced and the successes it has achieved in the light of its colonial legacy and the century-long struggle for freedom.

It covers the framing of the Constitution and the evolution of the Nehruvian political and economic agenda and basics of foreign policy; the consolidation of the nation and contentious issues like party politics in the Centre and the states, the Punjab problem, and anti-caste politics and untouchability. These, along with objective assessments of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Rajiv Gandhi, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, constitute a remarkable overview of a nation on the move.

Click here to order this book.

7. The Wonder That Was India: AL Basham

The Wonder That Was India by A L Basham

AL Basham’s The Wonder that was India is a brilliant early history of one of the oldest civilisations. When it was first published in the United Kingdom in 1954, it became an instant hit, as it would in the United States a few years later. Since then it has consistently found an avid readership all over the world. It’s been translated into many languages and has educated and entertained generations of general readers, serious students and travellers to India.

Click here to order this book.

8. India After Gandhi: Ramachandra Guha

India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha

Born against a background of privation and civil war, divided along lines of caste, class, language and religion, independent India emerged, somehow, as a united and democratic country. Ramachandra Guha’s hugely acclaimed book tells the full story – the pain and the struggle, the humiliations and the glories – of the world’s largest and least likely democracy.

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9. Ancient and Medieval India: Poonam Dalal Dahiya

Ancient and Medieval India by Poonam Dalal Dahiya

Combining storytelling and historical analysis, the book Ancient and Medieval India by Poonam Dalal Dahiya reveals a fascinating legacy covering all important aspects meant for the aspirants of the UPSC as well as various other State public service examinations.

This is the most popular credit-by-examination book that has helped many students target UPSC and State-level examinations. This book comes with exclusive chapter-wise practice questions. Additionally, the book is bicolour with highlighted important contents for the students to focus on and includes a detachable chart that gives a chance for complete revision at a glance.

Click here to buy this book.

10. From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India- Sekhar Bandyopadhyay

From Plassey to Partition and After by Sekhar Bandopadhyay

This is an eminently readable account of the emergence of India as a nation. It covers about 200 years of political and socio-economic turbulence. Of particular interest to the contemporary reader will be sections such as Early Nationalism: Discontent and Dissension, Many Voices of a Nation and Freedom with Partition. On the one hand, it converses with students of Indian history and on the other, it engages general and curious readers. Few books on this crucial period of history have captured the rhythms of India’s polyphonic nationalism as From Plassey to Partition.

Click here to buy this book.

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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