Strategy to Cover Modern History for Prelims 2024-25

Learn Modern History for the UPSC CSE Prelims as you're the main character in the story of India's past. Use resources like NCERTs, Spectrum's 'A Brief History of Modern India', & SuperKalam for instant practice.

Strategy to Cover Modern History for Prelims 2024-25

As an aspirant, the subject of history always felt too overwhelming to me. Part of it was due to its huge syllabus and also so many facts and figures that one needs to remember to score more in the UPSC CSE exam.

But, it was then that I figured that history is nothing but a story. A story of our ancestors, people who shaped how we currently live, eat, trade, travel, and do all these complicated things that seemed impossible even a few decades ago.

So, the best way for me to share the strategy on how to cover modern history for UPSC CSE Prelims, I will have to take you through a story. In this story, the main character will be YOU.

Are you ready? Read on to read your story 😉

To understand Modern History for the Civil Services exam, you need to know what came before it? Let’s look at a simple visual to know the timelines of history -

Timeline of Ancient to Modern History for UPSC CSE Exam
Timeline of Ancient to Modern History for UPSC CSE Exam

As you see, you have to understand how you shifted from Medieval to Modern. What brought these changes? 🤔

At the start of this transition period, lies the decline of the Mughal Empire. It would take you through 16 Mahajanapadas of India if you visited all the places under the Mughals at its peak in 1600. Here, you have to visit the different cities where Mughals had allowed the Euroeans to trade.


the times, they are changing...
the times, they are changing...

Rise of Europeans 🚢

The times and tables turned on the Mughals as you watched closely through the forts of Surat. You walk around the vegetable markets in Bengal to see new coins being exchanged, and some newer men setting up their industries near the ports.

You now have to enter the battlefields. Why? Because apart from Mughals there are a lot of local Kings and Princes who are not so ready to give up their empires to the westerners. You might suddenly remember how you used to fight for the TV remote with your sibling(s) to watch your favourite superheroes or cartoons.

Revolt against British Rule ⚔️

Now that you have covered and seen all the bloody wars that the British East India Company fought with so many different powers, you step into the 1850s. You witness how a sepoy, Mangal Pandey, serving under the British Army refused to kneel before the EIC’s commands and protect his cultural beliefs.

Scene depicting Mangal Pandey fighting  against the British Imperial Army
Scene depicting Mangal Pandey fighting against the British Imperial Army

However, out of the many tragic incidents that happened in the past to our national heroes, you see the same guy being hanged. Why? Because he chose to fight for what was right for him. Thousands of Indians, led to a great revolt of 1857 that you witness from behind a hill near Meerut.

Indian Independence Struggle 🇮🇳

From there, you have to walk many miles and years to reach in 1885 to see the formation of the Indian National Congress Party and the rise of nationalism and the demand for independent India. Remember how you feel so proud, every time you hear the Indian National Anthem - whether it is played on days of national importance when you remember real heroes or before you watch reel life heroes in action in theatres. 🇮🇳

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar addressing the constituent assembly

This is how you have to cover the entire series of events of the ‘Modern History’ through time and space.

But what are the sources? 

Booklist and resources to cover Modern History

Yes, since you went through almost 3 centuries of history in this article, let me share a step by step resource that will help you understand each part in greater detail. Do remember to study it as a story and it will do wonders for your preparation and revision:

Class 11 & 12th NCERTS - These two books will help you cover the basic overview of Modern History from the entry of Europeans to India getting independence.

Spectrum - A brief history of Modern India - After covering the basics with NCERTs, you can go deeper into the events from 1857 revolt to the Dandi march to the formation of constituent assembly and many more in this book.

SuperKalam - Ask SuperKalam any queries regarding any subtopic and it will give you instant notes and prelims questions to practice for the UPSC Prelims. For example: you can ask SuperKalam to give notes on the revolt of 1857 and why it failed. Plus you can also SuperKalam to give prelims MCQs on 

Previous Year Questions of the last 10 years - Going through the historical events and visiting many places in between, you will find a pattern of UPSC picking questions for you from some of its fav topics. You can again practice PYQS with SuperKalam to understand the common themes asked in the exam. 

So, this is how you can comprehensively cover the syllabus of Modern History for UPSC IAS exam with SuperKalam as your personal mentor in the journey. Also, learn it like a story - this will not only help you for retaining the exam, but also will help you understand the different social, cultural and economic conditions that helped evolve our nation to what it is today.