April 20th, 2020       Civil Services Preparation

Under the UPSC Civil Services Exam, World History comes under the GS 1 paper of the Mains Examination. Also, knowledge of world history can be of substantial help in writing answers related to International relations. Further, questions based on world history can be asked during the interview stage of the examination.

Through this article aspirants can know that how they should prepare for the world history section.….

Syllabus of World History

It will include events from the 18th century such as Industrial revolution, colonialisation, decolonialisation, world wars, redraw of national boundaries and political philosophies such as capitalism, socialism, communism, etc.- their forms and consequences on society.

  • It should be noted that questions that are asked require an analytical approach rather than mere focus on facts and figures. For example, consider the question asked in 2019 mains: it asked how American and French revolutions laid the foundation of modern world. The question demands that the aspirant should analyse the causes and results of the two events.
  • Further, it shows that the nature of the questions asked may not be direct.
  • Aspirants are required to follow a more generalist approach to tackle world history.
  • Preparation should include understanding thoroughly the basics of each and every topic coupled with inter and intra topic linkages. Else, the aspirants will fail to answer the questions.

Past year trends

UPSC CSE World History Past Year Trends

  • From the trends it can be seen that in the past seven years very few questions are asked from this section.
  • ROI should be kept in mind while preparing for this section.
  • However, it should be kept in mind that leaving the section altogether is not an option at all. UPSC is known for its uncertainty and surprises.
  • Further, the importance of this section in GS 2 and interview stage of the exam highlights that the section should be well prepared.

What sources should be referred to?

  • UPSC has not elaborated the syllabus much.
  • For comprehensive preparation, the syllabus has to be redrawn intelligently.
  • A smart way would be to go through the topics mentioned in the History optional and to prepare them from a generalist point of view without going into much depth.
  • Sources to be referred:
    • Story of civilisation part 1 and part 2 (Arjun Dev) old NCERT book
    • World History book by Krishna Reddy
    • Mastering World History by Norman Lowe
    • Notes of Apti Plus Academy for Civil Services
    • IGNOU study material
  • Topics that can be covered:
    • American Revolution, French Revolution, Industrial revolution
    • Napoleon Era world politics
    • Development of Nation-states in Europe
    • Labor movements
    • Capitalism, socialism and communism
    • Unification of Germany and Italy
    • Russian revolution
    • World Wars
    • Growth of Fascism and Nazism
    • Global Financial crisis
    • decolonization process
    • UN
    • Cold War politics
    • NAM, European Union etc

Previously asked questions


  1. What policy instruments were deployed to contain the great economic depression?
  2. American Revolution was an economic revolt against mercantilism. Substantiate.
  3. Africa was chopped into states artificially created by accident of European competition. Analyse.
  4. “Latecomer” Industrial revolution in Japan involved certain factors that were markedly different from what west had experience.


  1. The New Economic Policy – 1921 of Lenin had influenced the policies adopted by India soon after independence. Evaluate.
  2. What were the events that led to the Suez Crisis in 1956? How did it deal a final blow to Britain’s self-image as a world power?
  3. What were the major political, economic and social developments in the world which motivated the anticolonial struggle in India?


  1. To what extent can Germany be held responsible for causing the two World Wars? Discuss critically.
  2. Why did the industrial revolution first occur in England? Discuss the quality of life of the people there during the industrialization. How does it compare with that in India at present?


  1. The anti-colonial struggles in West Africa were led by the new elite of Western-educated Africans. Examine.


  1. What problems are germane to the decolonization process in the Malay Peninsula?


  1. Explain how the foundations of the modern world were laid by the American and French revolution.

Things to keep in mind

  • Try to cover as much aspects possible while answering any question by creating linkages.
  • Try to make the answer different from others by connecting it with India.
  • Make use of paragraphs as well as points.
  • Wherever it is possible make use of maps and other visual representation.

As not much questions have been asked in the last couple of years, aspirants are expected to refine their strategy accordingly without wasting time, energy and other resources. But keep in mind no topic or section or part of syllabus should be left uncovered.


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