1. Political & Social Conditions (800 — 1200 A.D.)
This chapter is not so important for C.S. Prelims and one question is asked from this topic. Generally the questions are based on the social conditions of this period. Actually in Civil Services much stress is not given on political history. The kings, their political achievements, battles etc. have become a forgotten conclusion.
The history now has become a history of the masses. The historians are busy in finding the reality. And the setters are following the same path. The questions are asked from that portion which is a matter of interest for all. As this was the transition period, questions are generally centred on that philosophy.
The UPSC may change its pattern, so it is advisable to cover up the political history also.
From 1990 to 2017 the questions were:
We have tried to cover the chapter according to the syllabus. Before going through this material, you just finish this topic given in the NCERT book which will help you in consolidating the base. Generally the students get confused in this chapter because of so many dynasties and so many battles. Do not confuse, make different chamber in your mind for different empires and their activities. We are here with you.
2. The Delhi Sultanate
This is one of the most important chapter of Medieval history. Generally questions are asked from this topic.
From 1987 to 2017 the questions were:
We see that the questions are generally from the administration and the agrarian conditions and sometimes from the good works done by the rulers. So it will be wise for you to concentrate yourself more on the administrative changes, agrarian structure, the achievement of the rulers (negative or positive) in any sphere, may be architecture too. The work of five rulers like Iltutmish, Balban, Alauddin Khilji, Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq and Firuz Tughlaq should be covered properly.
3. Provincial Dynasties Of North India & Deccan
This is the least important chapter of Medieval India for C.S. Prelims. Go through the chapter twice and we feel that would be sufficient. One, in two-three years, question is asked from this chapter.
Remember : Three chapters are most important in Medieval India and they are: Delhi Sultanate, Vijaynagar Empire and the Mughal Empire.
Nowadays, the chapter ‘Religious Movements in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries’ and Cholas are is getting recognition. You need to do strategic studies. You cannot do everything, neither is it useful to do so.
4. The Vijayanagar Empire
The foundation of the empire of Vijayanagar in 1336 constitutes a great event in South India in particular and the history of India in general. It was founded as a result of the political and cultural movement against the Tughlaq authority in the South.
Probably due to the above causes this chapter has become important in the eyes of the question setters. Generally questions are asked from this topic. Let us first see the trends of questions in the previous years.
From 1998 to 2017 the questions were:
Seeing the trend of questions we can come to the conclusion that the questions are asked generally from the administration and the society. So it will be wise to concentrate yourself on the Vijayanagar administration and the social condition.
The accounts of the foreign travellers, their arrivals (chronologically), achievements of Krishnadeva Raya and the cultural and artistic achievements of the period should also be prepared. Do not believe in duplicate keys. Be confident, because this is the real key to success.
5. Indo-Islamic Culture
The coming of Islam to India brought in its wake a unique mingling of cultural traditions, resulting in the growth of a composite culture. Evidence of this cultural contact is evident in the architecture, painting, literature and music; it is also to be seen in the religious field.
Many of the characteristics of Indian architecture are obvious in the buildings of the Muslim rulers, for though designed by Muslim architects, Hindu craftsmen actually built them.
The new features brought by Turkish conquerors were:
(i) The dome
(ii) Lofty towers
(iii) The true arch and the vault
(iv) Use of concrete and mortar
The Khilji monuments show a rich decorative character. The Tughlaq buildings show stark simplicity and sobriety. The Sultanate painting shows an attempt to arrive at a fusion of the newly introduced Persian and Indian traditional styles.
Many of the illustrated manuscripts shows the influence of Jain and Rajasthani painting style. Out of the Sultanate painting tradition emerged three major substyles: Mughal, Rajasthani and Deccani schools. We find this fusion in literature and music also. A good example of the union of the two cultures was the evolution of the Urdu language. This was originally called Zaban-iHindi. No separate preparation is required for this chapter.
When you read the chapter Delhi Sultanate from any good book you just keep the thought of this chapter in the back of your head. We have given separate informations because we are following the syllabus. Remember one thing, history is a continuous process.
6. Mughal Empire
This is the most important chapter of Medieval history. The Mughal Age is famous for many faceted developments and has been called the ‘Second Classical Age’, the first being the Gupta Age in northern India. From this chapter generally questions are asked. Let us see some previous years’ questions.
From 1987 to 2017 the questions were:
We are counting the questions of Sikh history with this chapter because it was the Mughal-Sikh conflict or it can come under the heading Mughal-Sikh relation. The questions on the repressive measures of the Mughals are generally avoided. It may be because Mughals are not supposed to be alien people. They are now one of the constituents of Indian society.
In 2014, there was a question on Ibadata Khana of Fatehpur Sikri. In 2015, the arrival of Babur into India led to- Introduction of gunpowder, arch and dome, Timurid dynasty or what.
From the past thirty years’ questions we come to know that more emphasis has been given on the following sub-heads:
(i) Nature of Mughal administration
(ii) Provincial administration
(iii) Land revenue
(vii) Foreign Travellers
(viii) Achievements of Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Dara Sikh.
Sometimes there used to be questions on the imperialistic attitude of the rulers.
So you should concentrate yourself only on the above sub-heads. Please do not get confused. It is your only enemy.
7. Beginning Of European Commerce
This chapter is important for C.S. Prelims. From this topic questions are asked regularly. The beginning of European commerce was a bridge between India’s medieval commercial affluence and the colonial deprivations and the resultant poverty during nearly two centuries-long British rule in India.
From the very beginning, the European trading companies began to establish their fortified trading settlements, called factories, on the coastal parts of India, immune from the administrative control of the local powers. In course of time the commercial motives turned into territorial ambitions, which pushed India into the jaws of the colonial dragon. Let us see the trends of question.
From 1987 to 2017 the questions were:
The questions were on the chronological order in which the British established their trading centres, and one matching question was there. Seeing the trend we can say that there can not be any uniform way of preparation. You have to develop cramming habit. Rely on micro informations. We are describing the various stages of the growth of the European commerce in India-individually of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, and the French.
8. Maratha Kingdom And Confederacy
The rise of the Marathas under Shivaji gave a severe jolt to the glory of the Mughals. In the next half century most of the military resources of the Mughal empire had to be deployed
against the Marathas: so much so that the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had to spend the last twenty five years of his reign in the Deccan desperately fighting the Marathas.
The nearly half-century-long struggle against the Marathas proved disastrous for the Mughal empire.
Four generations of the great Mughals, from Akbar to Aurangzeb, had spent the resources of the empire in establishing their hegemony over the Deccan, but when it became a near reality, the Marathas washed all their achievements in the latter half of the seventeenth century. They emerged as the most formidable power in India, till they were decisively defeated in the Third battle of Panipat in 1761.
Now we will discuss about the questions.Generally the questions are not asked from the earlier phase of the Maratha history. Sometimes there is questions from the earlier phase but it is only on the administration, revenue system, military organization, etc. Reason for not asking questions from the earlier period may be the same as the Mughal-Sikh one discussed in the intro of the Mughal empire chapter.
The later phase of the period is important because of the Peshwaship and the Third battle of Panipat. Actually Panipat paved the way for the rise of the British power which became a paramount power in India.
Focus your attention on the important points of the earlier and later phase of the Maratha period.
1. The Decline of Mughal Empire And The Rise Of Autonomous States
The decline of the Mughal empire was neither sudden nor surprising. Several defects inherent in the very organisation of the Mughal empire led to its decline and disintegration which was a long-drawn agony for the rulers as well as the ruled.
Shortly after Aurangzeb‘s death in 1707, the imposing edifice of the Mughal empire fell asunder and the living bond between the central power and the provinces was dissolved.
Ultimately when the unifying and life giving centres became defunct, the parts fell off. The provinces farthest from the capital were the first to be lost to the empire, either by declaring their independence under one of their own dynasties or by being conquered by a foreign power.
To this period of disintegration can be traced the origin of nearly all the great local principalities which the English found when they first tried to dominate the Indian political scene.
Remember that the personality whose works benefited the masses, in any way, should be treated as very important. Try to familiarise yourself with that personality.
2. The East India Company And The Bengal Nawabs
This chapter is very important for so many reasons.The beginnings of British political sway over India may be traced to the Battle of Plassey in 1757, when the English East India
Company‘s forces defeated Siraj-udDaulah (Nawab of Bengal). In less than two decades the actual power in Bengal was transferred from the nawabs of Bengal to the East India Company and this richest and industrially most advanced province of India was reduced to acute poverty and misery, which was further aggravated by famines and epidemics.
The capture of Bengal opened the floodgates of British colonialism and imperialism in India, reducing the rich economy of the country to a colonial economy.
Generally, questions are asked from this chapter.
From 1987 to 2017 the questions were:
The pattern of questions are more or less the same.
3. British Economic Impact In India
India had emerged as the industrial workshop of the world before the advent of the Europeans. Despite her predominantly agricultural economy, a variety of other industries also flourished in India.
Defoe, the writer of the famous novel, Robinson Crusoe, complained that Indian cloth had “crept into our houses, our closets and bed chambers; curtains, cushions, chairs, and at last beds themselves were nothing but calicos or Indian stuffs”. The foreign conquest of the country started the process which culminated in the transformation of India`s economy into a colonial economy. The British manufacturers put pressure on their government to restrict and prohibit the sale of Indian goods in England. By 1720 laws had been passed forbidding the wear or use of printed or dyed cotton cloth.
By the end of the 18th century, British rule had been established in large parts of the country and had come to stay. Britain, therefore, came to look upon India as her colony which had to be developed in the imperial interest. India was to be turned into a market for British goods and exporter of raw materials and food stuffs to feed Britain`s industries and her people.
This policy thwarted economic growth and resulted in economic stagnation. This fine country which flourished under the most despotic and arbitrary Government, was verging towards its ruin. One-third of the national capital was taken away by the British in some form or the other. Drain of wealth was the evil of all evils and the main cause of Indian poverty. Sometimes the figures regarding the drain of wealth are asked.
A serious reading of the chapter is advisable.
4. The Revolt of 1857
The Revolt of 1857 was the most formidable challenge the British empire had to face in India. It is a matter of speculation as to what the course of history would have been had the rebels succeeded.
Despite the sepoy’s limitations and weaknesses, their effort to emancipate the country from foreign rule was a patriotic act and a progressive step. Even in failure it served a grand purpose: a source of inspiration for the national liberation movement which later achieved what the Revolt could not.
So, this is the chapter par excellence. We see that before 1990 there were less questions from this chapter. But from 1990 onwards we find questions regularly from this chapter. From 1987 till date the questions were:
One question was based on assertion and reasoning and the other was of matching type. Only one question was asked based on matching. Presently, the questions from this chapter are of matching type, on chronological sequence, and statements, and to answer the questions you have to go into the minutest details of causes, course of events (chronological), personalities, their deeds and last but not the least the thinkers.
This chapter is not complete in itself. Before going through this chapter it is advisable to read the NCERT book and the book on ‘Freedom Struggle’ of Bipin Chandra.
5. Social And Cultural Awakening The Lower Caste, Trade Union And Peasants Movements
The spirit of reform embraced almost the whole of India beginning with the efforts of Raja Ram mohan Roy in Bengal leading to the formation of the Brahma Samaj in 1828. The cultural-ideological struggle, represented by the socio-religious movements, was an integral part of the evolving national consciousness. This was so because it was instrumental in bringing about the initial intellectual and cultural break which made a new vision of the future possible. Second, it was a part of the resistance against colonial cultural and ideological hegemony. Out of this dual struggle evolved the modern cultural situation: new men, new homes and a new society.
Generally three or four questions are asked from this topic. The questions use to be very simple and direct. From 1980 till now we do not see any drastic change of pattern of questions.
One thing is clearly visible and that is the second part of the chapter “The Lower castes, Trade Union and Peasant Movement” is getting more space than the Social-cultural movements. Even the least important movement like the peasant movement against the Udaipur Maharana is noticed in the question paper. So the history of the bottom is as important as the history of the top. Prepare the second part of the chapter more minutely than the first one.
Bipin Chandra in his book `Freedom Struggle’ has discussed the second part at length. You can consult that book, too.
6. The Freedom Struggle
The Indian national movement was basically the product of the central contradiction between colonialism and the interests of the Indian people. It was the movement’s scientific anti-colonial ideology which became the prime mover in its anti-imperialist struggle.
Certain other ideological elements constituted the broad socio-economic-political vision of the Indian national movement—this was that of bourgeois or capitalist independent economic development and a secular, republican, democratic, civil libertarian political order, both the economic and political order to be based on principles of social equality.
It was left to the national movement to fight for democracy and to internalize and indigenize it, that is to root it in the Indian soil.
From 2011 onwards pattern of question has changed. You have to go to the minutest details.
You have to read separately the following heads also. Questions come from these heads. Special material on the topic have been given in the end of the book.
Governors and Governor Generals Pre-Congress Nationalist Organisations India Under the viceroys Revolutionary Organisations Famines Important organisations and parties Leftist organisations and Parties Labour and Trade Union Organisations Changes in Government Policies Important Battles Books, Journals and Newspapers Growth of modern Education Evolution of British Indian administration Structure of Colonial government Civil Services Constitutional Development Important Commissions and Committees European Trading Companies and Settlements Tribal, non-tribunal and peasant movements
For Civil Services, this is the most important chapter. Generally 6-7 questions are asked from this topic. You may get only 1 or 2 direct questions. To make the questions complex, few right options with one wrong one is given. You have to identify it. Some multiple choices are given of which two or three are correct. You have to be very careful in choosing the right option.
For answering these type of questions only objective knowledge of the chapter is not enough. Much emphasis is given on chronology and matching type questions these days. So, nothing can be left or it is not advisable to be selective. A complete preparation of the chapter is needed and for that an extensive reading is very much necessary.