1. Prologue
    1. Q. Dalhousie the founder of Modern India
    2. Q. Maulana Azad
    3. Q. Foreigners in Freedom struggle
    4. Q. Women in Freedom Struggle
  2. Difficulty level and BackbreakingTM
  3. Evenly Spread Questions
  4. The Nature of History questions
  5. Studyplan/Approach/Strategy for Mains-2014 (GS History)


In the last article we saw the Indian Culture related questions in GS Mains paper 1- their answers, analysis and future strategy for Mains 2014. click me

Now let’s move to next section: The freedom struggle / Indian history. Following questions came for 10 marks and 200 words each (In Mains-2013):

  1. Defying the barriers of age, gender and religion, the Indian women became the torch bearer during the struggle for freedom in India. Discuss.
  2. Several foreigners made India their homeland and participated in various movements. Analyze their role in the Indian struggle for freedom.
  3. In many ways, Lord Dalhousie was the founder of modern India. Elaborate.
  4. Discuss the contribution of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to pre-and post-independent India.

Any analysis/observation/commentary is shallow without solving the questions so let’s do that first:

Sources/Books used

School Textbooks New NCERT No No No No
old NCERT (10,12) Yes No No No
TN State Board Class12 Yes, Verbatim No No No
Competitive TMH General Studies Manual No No No No
Spectrum Freedom Fighters No Yes Yes Yes
Spectrum Brief history Modern India Yes No Yes No
Krishna Reddy: Indian History Yes No Yes Yes
Academic Bipin Chandra, India ‘s struggle for independence No No Yes No
Sumit Sarkar: Modern India No No Yes No
  • “Yes” means at least 60% content available to write the answer. “Yes” doesn’t automatically mean 100% content available.
  • “No” means any of the three things:
    1. Book has insufficient Content to write decent 200 words. You’ve to re-phrase and rewrite the same sentence over and over dragging the points with flowery English like a chewing gum to reach 200 words limit.
    2. Answer did not exist at all.
    3. I did not check the book carefully.

Q. Dalhousie the founder of Modern India

Q. In many ways, Lord Dalhousie was the founder of modern India. Elaborate. (10m | 200 words)

Can be solved using any one of these:

  1. (TNT) Tamilnadu Textbook History Class 12, Chapter 6.
  2. Spectrum: A brief history of Modern India, Rajiv Ahir. In the last part of the book under Ready reference data section.
  3. Krishna Reddy: Indian History. Chapter 15 British Expansion.
  4. Old NCERT Class 12 (Bipin Chandra, History of Modern India) chapter on The structure of government and economic policies.

First let’s collect the points, then we compress:

Transformed the map of India

Annexed Punjab, Lower Burma, Central Provinces and Oudh.
Applied Doctrine of Lapse Satara, Jhansi and Nagpur

Dalhousie did it for following reasons:

  • Strategic: Imperial defense, ending the misrule of Princes to win goodwill of people.
  • Commercial: source of raw material, new market manufactured goods

Anyhow, Dalhousie increased the extent of British India. His territorial acquisition transformed the map of India. Had he not acquired these territories then many more Hyderabad, Jamnagar and Kashmir like crisis would have happened in those areas, immediately after freedom.

Administrative reforms @District and State level

Dalhousie was laying down the seeds of district administration / IAS under his “Non-regulation system”. Observe: After annexing Punjab, Dalhousie did following

  1. Organized Punjab province into small districts.
  2. Each district under control of an Administrative officer called “Deputy Commissioner”.
  3. Combined Revenue and Judicial departments.
  4. The laws and procedure were simplified in accordance with the custom of the people.
  5. The overall administration of Punjab in the hands of a Chief Commissioner.

Thus, Dalhousie had started molding the provinces into a modern centralized states.


Dalhousie introduced railways in India, with three fold objectives:

  1. Commercial– exploitation of raw material from interior parts of India
  2. Administrative– maintaining connectivity with all regions.
  3. Defense- for quickly transporting troops from one location to another, during rebellions.
1853 Bombay to thane
1854 Calcutta to the Raniganj coal-fields
1856 Madras to Arakkonam


Dalhousie = father of Post + telegraph because:

  • 1853: First telegraph line from Calcutta to Agra.
  • Overall, Dalhousie laid more than 4000 miles long telegraph line connecting Peshawar, Bombay, Madras,  Calcutta and many other parts of India.
  • Founded modern postal system in India.
  • Introduced postal stamps for the first time. Reduced the postal rates.
  • Uniform postal charge throughout India (half anna), irrespective of the distance between two places.


1854: Charles Woods prepared a dispatch on educational system in India.

He recommended following

  1. government should assume responsibility of spreading education to masses
  2. hierarchy of educational institutes
    1. Primary schools @Villages (Vernacular medium)
    2. High schools and an affiliated college @district (English medium)
    3. Universities @presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. (English medium)
  3. Stress on female education, vocational education and teachers’ training.
  4. Education should be secular in nature.
  5. Grant-in-aids to private educational institutions.

Dalhousie fully accepted the views of Charles Wood and took steps to carry out the new scheme.

Public Works Department

  • Before Dalhousie, the job of the Public Works Department was done by the Military Board.
  • But Dalhousie created a separate Public Works Department and allotted more funds for cutting canals and roads- and thus, laid foundation of the Engineering service in India.
  • Completed Upper Ganges Canal.
  • Constructed many bridges.


  1. Passed the Widow remarriage act (1856)
  2. Dalhousie shifted the headquarters of Bengal Artillery from Calcutta to Meerut.
  3. Simla was made the permanent headquarters of the army.

–but this is ~500 words. Have to compress—

Answer Keypoints

Q. In many ways, Lord Dalhousie was the founder of modern India. Elaborate. (10m | 200 words)

During his term, Dalhousie increased the extent of British India to Punjab, Oudh, Satara, Jhansi and other parts of India. His territorial acquisition transformed the map of India. He was not only a conqueror but also a great administrator.

  1. He started molding the medieval provinces into modern centralized states- with his “non-regulation system”. Punjab was divided into smaller district supervised by Deputy Commissioners, who were in turn supervised by a Chief Commissioner.
  2. Introduced railways in India for commercial, strategic and Administrative purpose.
  3. Introduced postal stamps, uniform charges and modern Postal System.
  4. Laid more than 4000 miles of telegraph line.
  5. Created separate Public Works department, allotted more funds for roads-canal construction.
  6. Implemented Woods Dispatch, assumed the responsibility of educating the masses, created hierarchy of educational institutes from primary schools at villages, high schools and collages at district level and universities in presidency towns.

The Modern India stands on the pillars of state-district administration, Rail-Post-Telecom infrastructure and three tier education system. Dalhousie directly involved in all of them, hence aptly called the founder of Modern India.

~180 words.

Q. Maulana Azad

Q. Discuss the contribution of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to pre-and post-independent India. (10m | 200 words)

Can be easily assembled from any of the following sources:

Let’s directly frame the answer:

During freedom struggle:

  • Ran Al Hilal and Al Balagh weeklies.
  • Head of Khilafat Committee
  • Supported Gandhi during Non-cooperation movement
  • presided over congress sessions
  • Arrested during Quit India movement.
  • Negotiated with British Cabinet mission for India’s independence.
  • Opposed two-nation theory of Jinnah. Advocated Hindu-Muslim unity.
  • Wrote a book “India Wins freedom”, to give firsthand account of the events.


  • Member of Constitution assembly
  • First Union minister of education, later held portfolios of Natural resources and scientific research.
  • Pivotal role in foundation of IIT, UGC, AICTE, CSIR, Sahitya Academy, Lalit Kala Academy, Sangeet Natak Academy and many other educational and scientific research laboratories in India.
  • For his service to the nation, he was posthumously awarded country’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.

~130 words, but when you elaborate the statements and expand the abbreviations, it automatically covers the remaining gap of 70 words.

Q. Foreigners in Freedom struggle

Q. Several foreigners made India their homeland and participated in various movements. Analyze their role in the Indian struggle for freedom. (10m | 200words)

In most of the books, this answer is not available directly.  (Except Annie Besant part)

The Quickest reference source I can think of, is Spectrum’s freedom fighter book. (Gandhi Nehru Tagore and other eminent personalities of Modern India.)

first let’s gather the points:

AO Hume Debatable because he did not make India his ‘homeland’. He had left India in 1894 and died in London (1912).
David Hare Doesn’t count because he is related to introduction of western education, rationalism and liberal thinking. Besides he died in 1842, before the mutiny of 1857.
Henry Vivian Derozio Doesn’t count, because he’s not foreigner. He was an Anglo-Indian born in Calcutta.
William Jones Doesn’t count because he died in 1746, way before even the first struggle of independence (1857). Besides his main interest was translation of Sanskrit scripts.

Anyways, let’s check the foreigners who contributed in Freedom struggle:

Annie Besant

  • Irish woman, came to India as a part of Theosophical society.
  • Central Hindu School @Benaras, later became Benaras Hindu university
  • Surat Split had weakened the Congress, Gandhi was yet to come. During this time Besant’s political entry provided the much needed momentum to freedom struggle.
  • Demanded self-rule for India, without waiting for the end of  WW1.
  • Setup a Home rule league in 1915.
  • Spread her ideas through New India and Commonweal
  • Moved the congress resolution against Jaliawalla massacre.
  • Also served as President of Congress session
  • She and Gandhi had difference of opinion on Montague- chelmsford reforms, Non-cooperation movement and boycott of foreign goods. In the last 10 years of her life, Ms. Beasant quit active politics and freedom struggle altogether.

Charles Freer “Dinbandhu” Andrews

  • English missionary philanthropist.
  • Extended his wholehearted support to the freedom struggle and criticized the British for their unjust and racial policies.
  • Took part in political and social movements launched by Indian leaders.
  • championed the rights of labourers, railway workers and cotton weavers
  • actively worked with BR Ambedkar for Harijan demands, campaigned against untouchability
  • Gandhi gave the title of “Dinbandhu” for his compassion for poor.
  • Advocated the rights of Indian settler in South Africa, East Africa, West Indies, Fiji and the English colonies in other parts of the world.
  • used his influence in England to arouse public opinion against colonial exploitation.
  • Even negotiated with the government in England for Gandhi’s release from prison.

Foreigners who played role in India's Freedom struggle

Miraben (Madelein Slade)

  • From aristocratic English family.
  • Influenced by Gandhian philosophy, joined Sabarmati Ashram, took part in Gandhi’s socio-political campaigns.
  • toured throughout India to promote Khadi and Satyagraha
  • Wrote many articles in Young India, Harijan, The Stateman, Times of India and Hindustan Times.
  • Major role in setting up Seva gram near Wardha.
  • Accompanied Gandhi to Round table conference in London.
  • During WW2, asked Orissa people to oppose Japanese invasion non-violently.
  • Placed under detention during Quit India movement.

Satyanand Stokes

Not given in any books but TheHindu ran a story on him (August 2013).

  • Samuel Evans Stokes Jr. was scion of a Wealthy American family. Came to India to work in a leaper home in Himachal.
  • fought relentlessly against labour exploitation in the Shimla hills
  • Only American to attend Congress session in Nagpur (1920)
  • Only foreigner to sign Congress manifesto in 1921 that called upon Indians to give up government service and join the freedom movement.
  • Arrested on charges of Sedition, jailed for six months.
  • Died in ’46 in Shimla.

Sarala Ben

  • -Originally Katherine Mary Heilaman, disciple of Gandhi.
  • Social worker, setup ashram in Uttarakhand, helped the families of political prisoners.

Margaret Elizabeth Noble (Sister Nivedita)

  • From Ireland. Joined Swami Vivekananda’s Ramakrishna Mission.
  • Criticized the racial policies of the British, helped during Bengal famine and plague epidemics, worked for upliftment of Women.

Mira Alphonse (Mother)

  • French woman, associated of Shri Aurobindo,
  • role in setting up Auroville town near Pondicherry.
  • Motivated Annie Beasant, Nalini Sengupta and many other women to fight for India.

Nalini Sengupta

  • Born in Cambridge to Fredrick and Edith Grey. Came to India after marrying Jatindra Mohan Sengupta.
  • Actively participated in boycott and non-cooperation movements, arrested several times.
  • President of Indian National Congress- notable achievement for a woman from Britain.
  • Elected unopposed to Bengal legislative assembly.

Verrier Elwin

  • British by birth, came to India in ’27. associated with Seva Sangh of Puna.
  • On Gandhi’s advice, worked for tribal upliftment, setup Gond Seva Mandal.

More names can be dug through google, but in a real life scenario, an aspirant cannot afford to do Ph.D on every topic. So let’s just assemble the answer from the information available so far.

— ~650 words. Have to compress —

Answer keypoints

Q. Several foreigners made India their homeland and participated in various movements. Analyze their role in the Indian struggle for freedom. (10m | 200words)

[Side note: since this is an ‘analyse’ question, multiple answers and interpretations possible.]

While many Americans and Europeans empathized with India’s struggle for Independence, few of them came to India and actively participated. Notable are: Annie Beasant, Katherine Heilaman (Sarala ben), Mira Alphonse (Mother), Madelin Slade (Miraben), Nalini Sengupta CF, “Dinbandhu” Andrews, Satyanand Stokes and Verrier Alvin.

Overall their role can be summarized as following:

  • Most of them came to India with primary aim of social service. But their hearts were moved by the brutal exploitation of the British-raj, hence joined India’s struggle for Independence.
  • None advocated revolutionary terrorism or violent methods.
  • Almost all associated with Congress. Annie Beasant and Nalini Sengupta even presided over the Congress sessions despite their foreign nationality.
  • Most of them not imprisoned for long time, because they were white.
  • focused on different areas:
    • Religion: Sister Nivedita, Mother Mira Alphonse
    • Education and culture: Beasant
    • Social work: Nalini Sengupta, Miraben, Sarla ben
    • Labor rights: Dinbandhu, Satyananda Stoke
    • Tribal rights: V.Alvin
  • Some closely associated with Gandhi-Miraben, Sarlaben and Dinbandhu.
  • Some influenced by Gandhi – V.Alvin, N.Sengupta, Satyanand Stokes.
  • Some even had differences with Gandhi- Annie Besant.

But all of them fought against the tyranny of British Imperialism and helped India attain her independence.

~200 words.

Q. Women in Freedom Struggle

Q. Defying the barriers of age, gender and religion, the Indian women became the torch bearer during the struggle for freedom in India. Discuss. (10 marks | 200 words)

Answer can be assembled from any of the following sources:

  1. Spectrum Freedom fighters (Gandhi Nehru Tagore and Other personalities)
  2. Spectrum Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir
  3. Bipin Chandra: India’s struggle for Independence. Points scattered throughout the book.
  4. Krishna Reddy. Chapter Gandhi and his thoughts: subtopic “Role of women in nationalist movement”.

NCERT, TN Textbook, GS Manual= hardly useful because their content is too small/ too generic/ too scattered to serve the purpose. Anyways, first let’s make a table of notable women freedom fighters, to see a pattern / trend.

Abbreviations used in following table:

  • R=rich, M=middle class, P=poor, “?”=not mentioned in book, and I did not bother googling (Because in real life preparation, a candidate wouldn’t have that much time to do Ph.D on everything.)
  • NV=non-violent. R=Revolutionary / violent methods.
Aruna Asaf Ali M NV
  • Breaking the social conventions, married to a Muslim Congressman Asaf Ali. Went to prison during CDM and Individual Satyagraha. Hoisted tricolor @Gowalia tank after Maulana Azad’s arrest.
  • Editor of  ‘Inquilab’ a monthly journal of Congress
Begum Safia Abdul Wajid R NV
  • Rich Muslim Family, Post graduate from Allahabad Univ. Lost government lecturer job because of her participation in Quit India movement.
Durgabai Deshmukh M NV
  • Middle class family, initially couldn’t afford education but graduated from Andhra.
  • Studied law, practiced in Madras High court.
  • Jailed for salt satyagraha
  • Andhra Mahila sabha for welfare of women.
Jyotirmoyee Ganguli ? NV
  • left Government job during civil disobedience movement.
  • took part in the British demonstrations
  • Demanded the release of jailed INA soldiers. Killed by the British during a procession.
Kasturba ? NV
  • Took part in all the programs of Gandhi, jailed during Quit India movement and died in Poona jail two years later.
Madam Bhikaiji Cama NV
  • herself influenced by Dadabhai Naoroji, she Inspired Indian youth in UK, ran newsletter “Bande Mataram” and organization “free India society”.
  • Unfurled first national flag of India in Germany.
Matangini Hajra P NV
  • born in a poor peasant family of Bengal- exploited by both Zamindars and the British.
  • Dandi March,
  • campaigned for non-payment of Chowkidari tax- arrested.
  • During Quit India movement, planned an Attack on police station but killed while hoisting the national flag.
Nehru R NV
  • Jawaharlal’s mom: Swarup Rani Nehru, provided moral support and fought for freedom struggle.
  • His sister Vijay Laxmi Pandit: jailed thrice during CDM
  • Wife Kamala Nehru: participated in CDM and No-tax campaign.
Rajkumari Amrita Kaur R NV
  • Royal family from Punjab
  • Grad. from England, influenced by Gandhi
  • Jailed for quit India movement
Rehana Tyabjee R NV
  • Affluent family, her father was a Judge.
  • influenced by Gandhi, joined Sabarmati Ashram, NCM, opposed Untouchability + child marriage
  • President of Youth congress
  • Jailed for QIM
  • First muslim lady to sing Vandemataram in Congress session
Sarojini Naidu ? NV
  • Graduated from London
  • one of the first women to participate in Freedom struggle
  • under mentorship of G.K.Gokhale
  • later participated in all programs of Gandhi, including Dandi March
  • served as President of Indian national congress.
  • Even her daughter Padmaja Naidu, 21, was arrested for Quit India movement.
Cpt. Laxmi Sahgal ? R
  • young medical student
  • Became Captain of all-woman Rani of Jhansi regiment of the Indian National Army (INA) under Subhash Chandra Bose.
  • Led the troops in Burma during WW2, but caught by the British army.
Kalpana Dutt Joshi ? R
  • Revolutionary from Bengal.
  • part of Surya Sen’s Chittagong republication army. Caught and transported for life, later released.
Nanibala devi ? R
  • Brahmin family. Widowed @the tender age of 16
  • Joined Jugandhar party, associated with revolutionary movements.
  • Arrested for transporting weapons and ammunition
  • was the first and only woman to be tortured by the police under Regulation III of 1818
  • Calcutta jail’s first woman prisoner.
Preetilata Waddedar ? R
  • Part of Chittagaong revolutionaries of Surya Sen.
  • Organized attacks on British establishments in Bengal.
  • Consumed Postassium cyanide to evade detention and interrogation.
Rani Gaidinliu ? R
  • Naga Tribal, who organized rebellion to overthrow British from Manipur.
  • Jailed for 14 years, freed after independence. Given title “Rani of Nagas”

~1000 words. Even more can be gathered if we refer each book word by word and dig google. But in real life preparation, that is impractical. So let’s just try to assemble an answer from the data gathered so far.

Key points- Women in Freedom struggle

Q. Defying the barriers of age, gender and religion, the Indian women became the torch bearer during the struggle for freedom in India. Discuss. (10 marks | 200 words)

[Side note: Since this is a “Discuss” question, multiple answers possible.]

For the first struggle in 1857 to the last struggle in 1942, Women have played an instrumental role in India’s struggle for independence.

  • Women were not mere foot-soldiers, they provided leadership and direction as well. Be it Sarojini Naidu in Salt March, Vijaya Laxmi in CDM, Kasturba in QIM, Madam Bhikaiji Cama among Indians in UK, Rehana Tyabjee as President of Youth Congress, Captain Laxmi Sahgal in INA or  Rani Gidinliu during Manipur rebellion.
  • Kalpana Dutt, Nanibala Devi and Preetilata Waddedar even joined revolutionary movements, disregarding the threat of police brutality, deportation and death. Many like Jyotirmoyee Ganguli even left government jobs to boycott the British oppression.
  • Matangini Hajra, Durgabai Deshmukh and many others from poor and middle class families participated.  Begum Safia Wajid, Rehana Tyabjee and Rajkumari Amrita Kaur and many other from affluent Muslim families and royal lineage came out.

From liberal homes to conservative families, urban centers to rural hamlets, Hindu and Muslim, single and married, young and old, mothers and daughters, wives and sisters- all women came forward to help India attain its independence.

~210 words.

Question-Answer finished. Now time for analysis/observation/commentary/ramblings.

Difficulty level and BackbreakingTM

From mid 90s to mid-2000, the GS Mains (History) trend was as following:

  • 7,10 or 15 freedom fighters for two marks each = 20-30 marks.
  • Two to three long questions on freedom struggle for around 15-20-25 marks each. and within this:
    • they Provided alternatives e.g. write any one of two or any two among given three.
    • sometimes the focus would be on the initial phase (from 1857 to Gandhi Irwin)
    • Sometimes the focus would be on the end phase (from Gandhi Irwin to various offers and missions for India’s partition.)

In that era, you could easily sail through the questions by relying on just two books (Spectrum’s freedom Fighter + Rajiv Ahir), and at most Bipin Chandra.

But in the recent years, UPSC chairman has been running a campaign to break the backs of coaching classes, rot learners (and senior players). Hence the complexity of GS history has kept increasing with each year. Observe:

2009 “quotes” based questions. You were given some random statements and you had to comment on them.
2010 Only two freedom fighters (4 marks) and a tough question on Dalhousie.
2011 RIN munity (a topic that almost nobody prepares) + women’s org. + a few random terms that were hard to recall.
2012 Drastically reduced the history portion. More focus on Culture. No freedom fighters. Even the 25 marker required you to make significant brainstorming for ideas before attempting the answer.

Same type of complexity-unpredictability has prevailed in 2013 as well.

Players had hoped that just like in 2012, UPSC will ask more from culture and less from freedom struggle in 2013. But UPSC did the reverse: more questions from Freedom struggle (12%) and less questions from Culture (8%).

Evenly Spread Questions

In the past exams, the question focus would be on a particular block of freedom struggle only:

2010: Dalhousie Before freedom struggle.
2011: RIN Mutiny last part of Freedom struggle

Compared to that, 2012’s had a more even / balance coverage of entire freedom struggle. Observe the question:

Q. “The Indian independence movement was a mass—based movement that encompassed various sections of society. It also underwent the process of constant ideological evolution? Critically examine.

2013 continued on that pattern of testing you understanding entire freedom struggle period. Observe:

Dalhousie Before freedom struggle Tested your memory/recalling power. (you just had to reproduce the points from your brain to the piece of paper)
role of women During freedom struggle Tested your understanding. You had to brainstorm for ideas, arrange them in an order to frame the analysis/discussion.
role of foreigners During freedom struggle Same as above.
Maulana Azad During and after freedom struggle. Same as Dalhousie question.

Thus for 40 marks, you had to cover almost entire struggle for India’s independence- with both your memory power and your understanding/analysis power.

The Nature of History questions


Dalhousie is not a totally new guy for Mains. In past, UPSC has asked about him but in a different context:

  1. “Dalhousie’s predecessors had acted on the general principles of avoiding annexations, if these could be avoided. Dalhousie acted on the principles of annexation, if he could do so legitimately. His annexations were both of war and peace.” Analyze. (12 marks | GS1 Mains-2010)
  2. “Dalhousie changed the map of India with speed and thoroughness no campaign could equal.” (20 marks | History optional 2001)

But difficult to solve in actual exam hall of 2013 because:

  • In the recent times, for most aspirants, freedom struggle syllabus meant = 1857 and afterwards. So, no one has ever paid much attention to Dalhousie for mains because he left in 1856.
  • Bipin Chandra and NCERT don’t talk about him much.
  • Besides, there are 50 dozen other names, places and events to be memorized so who has time for things before 1856?
  • Even in CSAT Prelims, UPSC has ceased asking Governor-General/Viceroy related GK MCQs. So most people couldn’t recall anything except a few basic points about Dalhousie=railways, telegraph, Satara and Jhansi= high quality answer difficult.

Maulana Azad

I’ve counted Maulana Azad question for Post-Independence India topic. Because in the original 2013 question paper, this question was asked after Bhoodan and Jai-Jawan,Jai Kisan questions. (Meaning whoever arranged the questions, he was in the mood for “post-independence”.)

Anyways, Azad cannot be counted as a BackbreakingTM question because:

  1. 2013= 125th anniversary of Azad. and if someone / somebody’s birth or death anniversary is in the multiple of 25 then it is automatically important for UPSC – for both GS as well as literature.
  2. in November 2013, he was in news because :
    1. Government launched a new webportal maulanaazadheritage.org
    2. Modi blogging that Rahulbaba’s family has erased all heroes from public memory including Maulana Azad and Kriplani.

All this was in news during second week of November 2013. Some candidates may not be aware of this development because in November they would have stopped reading newspaper because Mains-2013 was just a few days away in the first week of December.

Lesson: A player must not stop following newspapers when exam is near.

Role of women in Freedom struggle:

UPSC has asked Women and Freedom struggle questions in past, but in a little different context:

  1. How did the movement for liberation of women receive a great stimulus from the rise and growth of nationalist movement in India? 15 marks 2001 GS Mains
  2. Evaluate the influence of three important women’s organizations of early 20th Century in India on the country’s society and politics. 10 marks 2011 GS Mains

As such this 2013 question has not fell from sky. In various books, essays, and columns, you’ve read about the role of women during freedom struggle. But in the real life exam it becomes difficult because:

  • Question Paper started with culture questions and they’re tough because you had to 100-200 words. No alternatives were given= Mind already filled with fear and stress.
  • So, even for this women role answer, Candidate cannot immediately recall all the points. Have to brainstorm for ideas, what to write, what to skip= takes more time and energy (compared to something direct non-analytical like “role of Maulana Azad.”)

Role of Foreigners in Freedom struggle:

  • I did not find this question in any of the previous GS mains paper, except Annie Besant/Home rule specific questions. (or maybe I did not look carefully)
  • As such, the standard books for history preparation (Bipin, Rajiv Ahir or GS Manual) don’t have much on foreigners, except Annie Besant. Even Miraben and Dinbandhu get only passing mention= difficult to recollect points for ‘analysis’ type question.
  • Although in August 2013, TheHindu did run a story on Satyanand Stokes.
  • But then one couldn’t have anticipated that a full blown question on all foreign freedom fighters could be asked. Besides even if you could anticipate it- there were dozens of other things to be prepared for four papers of new GS syllabus= hardly much time left to cover all freedom fighters.

Observe this MCQ from CSAT-2013:

The Chinese traveller Yuan Chwang (Hiuen Tsang) who visited India recorded the general conditions and culture of India at that time. In this context, which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. The roads and river-routes were completely immune from robbery.
  2. As regards punishment for offences, ordeals by fire, water and poison were the instruments for determining the innocence or guilt of a person.
  3. The tradesmen had to pay duties at ferries and barrier stations.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Now the user comments posted on its answerkey article:

User 1 The Question on Huan Tsang was current affairs related. A Report came on Hindu that a temple related to Huan Tsang was being demolished in China….UPSC rocks!!
User 2 (responds) And a candidate is expected to dig out the archives and frame points about what Huan Tsang said and what he left unsaid. UPSC rocks with you sir.

Lesson: sometimes it is not humanly possible to cover everything even if the topic is hinted in TheHindu.

Anyways, what should be the

Studyplan/Approach/Strategy for Mains-2014 (GS History)

GS preparation is like Kung-fu, every master develops his own style. you don’t have to read all of these following books, just mix-match-tweak as per your requirements.

Source details for GS (Mains) History?
(new) NCERT
  • Quite good for geography and science theory based MCQs.
  • But freedom struggle related coverage is not given in a detailed way that would help in MCQs/Descriptive.
Useless for freedom struggle.
(old) NCERT
  • (class 10 and 12).
  • Help in only three (women, Dalhousie, Azad).  But content scattered.
  • Useful but TNT better alternative (in terms of eye candy fonts, bullets, bold effects on important terms).
  • besides, Bipin Chandra wrote Class 12’s old NCERT, so many ideas repeat when you read his other book on “India’s struggle for independence
Tamil Nadu Textbooks (TNT)
  • The History coverage is both useful in MCQ and descriptive coverage for competitive exams.
  • Detailing is Similar to Old NCERT but with eye candy fonts and pictures.
  • available for free: Click ME
  • for freedom struggle: use Class 12 textbook.
GS Manual Has its utilities in static MCQs in prelims (CSAT) but insufficient content to tackle these 100-200 word descriptive questions on History. not much
NIOS History course not uploaded
IGNOU Site stopped working.

Bipin Chandra: India‘s struggle for independence (Penguin Publication)

  • It still has utilities in prelims (CSAT) MCQs, particularly the “2 statement true/false” type questions.
  • In Mains-2013 as such did not help much directly, but Bipin’s fodder material has indirect uses in Essay and interviews, including the Mains-2013 essay on Gandhi.
  • For Mains 2014? Useful, should be read. It’ll be a mistake to throw it off too quicky just because UPSC did not ask direct questions in one mains exams.

Spectrum’s Freedom fighter book

  • After observing the last two mains, I had given up hope on this book.
  • But Luck by chance three questions in Mains-2013 could be solved from this book (Azad, women, foreigners)
  • So, will it be helpful in Mains-2014? Well that depends on the question: will UPSC continue ask similar group/category based questions in 2014? e.g. “analyse the role of Parsi/South Indian poets/xyz group in freedom struggle.”
  • As such a good tool because if you know the contribution of a few dozen freedom fighters from various area/religion/ideology, you can pretty much cover up the remaining gap in a 100-200 words question on most freedom fighting question by citing them as examples.

Rajiv Ahir: A brief history of Modern India (Spectrum Publication)

  • He has written the book like a ‘note’ similar to Laxmikanth’s Polity. Only difference is Laxmikanth helps very much in MCQs, Rajiv not that much.
  • After last two mains, I had given up hope on this book as well. But Helped in two questions (Dalhousie, women).
  • Will it help in Mains-2014? well that Depends
  1. If you’re appearing in some State service exam then yes because Rajiv’s good for those generic static direct question because of its ‘ready revision note’ type of coverage.
  2. Otherwise, you’re better off with other combos involving (TNT/Old NCERT) + (Bipin/Sumit). etc.

Sumit Sarkar: Modern India (1885-1947)

  • As such this book is meant for History optional, but some senior players even use it for General studies.
  • Directly it did not help much in Mains-2013 but has its utilities in essay, interview (even MCQs).
  • If you’re already a senior player with already good grip over Bipin, then you may use it to gain additional fodder points, wisdom and enlightenment about freedom struggle. otherwise, not recommended for new players.

Krishna Reddy, Indian History (TMH Publication)

  • Directly helped in three questions (Except foreigners) but it’s a very bulky book solely written for history optional subject (for prelims in pre-CSAT era).
  • Not recommended for players without history optional.

Coaching/Postal/Correspondence material

  • Usually assembled by copy pasting passages from standard reference books and making fancy bullets, numbering, tables, bold/italic effects and a very dark watermark to prevent xeroxing.
  • It doesn’t help beyond GK and very easy static type questions.
  • For the analyse/discuss/evaluate/examine/comment/essay-ish type questions, they don’t help much.
  • In short, too expensive for what it is worth. So don’t bother even Xeroxing such readymade material. Better stick to standard reference books.

Jholacchap NGOs Publication houses

  • 2014: Election year = many state service vacancies will come, before the model code of conduct comes into effect.
  • So this also means Diwali year for Jholacchap publication houses, they’ll flood market with lot of new books on history, polity, geography everything.
  • Atmost just use them for getting terminologies of polity/geography/economics in your mother tongue. or at most some specific topics like GK/geography of your state.
  • Otherwise, always rely on standard reference books. Avoid jholachhap publishers like hell.


Table only for illustration, multiple combos possible otherwise:
LEVEL combo #1 combo #2
  • Only TNT until he clears prelims. (Use all the remaining time and energy to master other static areas of prelims- i.e. polity, science, economy, geography and aptitude.) if he has mastered all of them, then he should bother with Bipin etc.
TNT + Rajiv Ahir (if he’s planning for  state service in 2014)
  • TNT + Bipin Chandra. Bipin should be read with highlighters and make keyword notes on its margins. (that way after prelims, it doesn’t take much time in second-third revision.)
  • Until prelim is over, he should not bother with Mains answer writing- instead pour all that energy in the aptitude (Paper II) preparation- comprehension, Maths and reasoning + all the static areas of GS prelims where he faulted last time + maintaining current notes from newspapers.
If you are taking a ‘break’ in 2014, to focus on state services preparation:

  1. Religiously Mug up Rajiv Ahir + whatever book goes for your state related history.
  2. Spectrum’s freedom fighters + dig net to get list of all freedom fighters from your state.
  3. Write answer to all static-descriptive mains Qs. of StatePSC by yourself. If you can’t find them online/in market, then file RTI.
  • Anyone Class 12 textbook: Old NCERT or TNT
  • Anyone academic book: Bipin Chandra / Sumit Sarkar. (or both) Use highlighters and make keyword notes on its margins.
  • Ignore Rajiv Ahir, because it has nothing new that you don’t know already for UPSC level questions. (especially after going through one textbook and one academic book)
  • Answer writing of maximum number of static history questions from previous papers– particularly those similar to 2012 and 2013 (i.e. questions demanding your knowledge of entire struggle).

In a movie called “Snake in the Eagle’s shadow”, Jackie Chan first learns “Eagle” style kungfu. But the main villain easily defeats him with Snake style. Then Jackie observes how a cat kills the snake. So, He develops a new style: EagleCAT kungfu and wins the last fight. Point being, if you want to defeat the main villain (UPSC) you’ve to develop your own combos.

  • New guy= complete rookie player. Never appeared in any prelims.
  • *Intern: someone who has appeared in one or more prelims but failed by a small margin.
  • Senior player: Has cleared one or more prelims.

Other points/analysis/observations are same as from Culture analysis:

  1. Causal revision = #Epicfail
  2. Focus on Dramatic part = also #EPICFAIL
  3. Working professionals don’t waste salary
  4. Mains-2013 players don’t cry over the spilled milk

In the next article, we’ll World History questions from GS1 paper, their answers, analysis and plan for 2014.