How to Study Modern History for UPSC Civil Service Exam (Prelims & Mains)-by ABHIJIT GUPTA (ABG) IRPS 2017 Batch, Rank 53 in IFoS, Rank 45 in Indian Engineering Services

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  • May 14, 2020
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ABHIJIT GUPTA is presently serving in Railways (IRPS 2017 Batch -Rank 511). Amazingly, he has the distinction of qualifying all the top 3 examinations conducted by UPSCCivil Services Exam, Rank 53 Indian Forest Services (IFoS), Rank 45 in Indian Engineering Services (IES) 

He was our ILP Student (2017), and used to write Mains Answers on our TLP Platform. He has been a guiding light for many in our TLP Mains Answer Writing Programme (a Free initiative). He was not only known for his answer writing skills but also for his helping attitude for others -through peer reviews and guiding others in answer writing. He is more famous as ABG (his Disqus name). Most of you must be aware of it, as he was one of the most active student on the platform.

To Watch Abhijit Gupta’s Strategy -> CLICK HERE

Recently he had also written a strategy on- 


How to Study Modern History for UPSC Civil Service Exam? 

Modern history is a highly scoring subject. Moreover, one can expect around 6-7 questions (on average) in CSE prelims and 3-4 questions out of 20 in GS 1 paper of MAINS.


The issue faced by many aspirants is that they find it difficult to remember the dates, committees, details of movements, etc. However, if one prepares Modern history smartly, it is one of the easiest subject to prepare.


I will cover the strategy to prepare Modern History in two parts
1. How to prepare MOVEMENTS that form important topics in Modern history ?
2. Importance of preparing chronology of events in modern history?

Part 1 –

How to prepare any movement in Modern History?

It is important to analyse the movement in detail.
1. Causes of the movement
2. Participants in the movement
3. Nature of Movement – Was it violent or non violent ?
4. Important leaders of the movement
5. Relevant Congress session
6. Achievements of the movement
7. Drawbacks
8. Reasons for failure/withdrawal of the movement
9. What happened after withdrawal of movement


This year marks the 100th anniversary of Non Cooperation Movement. Let us take example of Non Cooperation Movement (NCM)
Causes of  NCM –
Political – Indians were disappointed by Government of India Act 1919 , no self government granted to Indians
Economic – Economic hardship post World War 1 made life miserable for common man
Social – Brutality of British administration – Jallianwala Bagh massacre, extremely repressive Rowlatt Act
Religious – After World War 1, Ottoman Empire was dismembered and Caliphate removed from power. This incensed Muslim all over the world, including India.


Participants in the movement
1. Peasants – massive participation – turned against landlords, traders along with British rule
2. Students – left government schools and colleges and joined national schools and colleges
3. Muslim community
4. Women – picketed shops selling foreign cloth and liquor
5. Middle class and Business class


Important leaders of the movement 
1. Gandhi ji (main force behind this movement)
2. Motilal Nehru
3. Jawahar Lal Nehru
4. CR Das
5. Subhash Chandra Bose
6. Sardar Patel
7. Ali Brothers (Shaukat Ali and Mohammad Ali)
8. Lala Lajpat Rai
Veterans such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and Annie Besant opposed the idea outright.


Relevant Congress session
Nagpur Congress Session (December 1920)
Congress goal changed to attainment of Swaraj through peaceful and legitimate means from attainment of self government through constitutional means.


Features of the movement
Gandhi’s call was for
1. A nationwide protest against the Rowlatt Act.
2. Closing of all offices and factories.
3. Indians encouraged to withdraw from Raj-sponsored schools, police services, the military, and the civil service, and lawyers were asked to leave the Raj’s courts.
4. Boycott of Public transportation and English-manufactured goods.
5. Indians returned honours and titles given by the government
NON VIOLENT in nature


1. Hindu Muslim Unity – Communal harmony
2. Use of Passive Resistance on a national scale
3. Truly mass movement – Nationalised sentiments reached every nook and corner of the country
4. Movement established Gandhi ji as a true leader of the country
5. Involvement of women in the movement


Reasons for withdrawal of NCM
1. Chauri Chaura incident – movement turned violent – against tenets of Gandhiji
2. Movement showing signs of fatigue
3. Central theme of the agitation for Khilafat movement dissipated soon – with Mustafa Kamal Pasha rising in Turkey, depriving Sultan of political power and making it a secular state.


1. Communalised the national politics to some extent
2. Response to call for resignation from government services was very limited
3. Business class – Some big businesses were afraid of labour unrest in their factories, and hence remained sceptical of movement.
4. Many zamindars did not join the movement.


Post Non Cooperation Movement 
1. Debate started among Congressmen on what to do in passive phase of the movement – Swarajists and No Changers factions.
2. Rise of revolutionaries – Second phase of revolutionary era started in 1920s. Ex – Bhagat Singh launched HSRA.


Sample MCQs based on NCM
Q.1) Which of the following were the probable causes of Non Cooperation Movement ?
1. Economic hardships faced by Indians post World War I
2. Failure of Britishers in providing complete independence to India post World War I
3. Repressive Rowlatt Act
A. 1,2
B. 2,3
C. 1,3
D. 1,2,3


Answer – C
Hint – Complete independence (Purna Swaraj) was demanded by Indian National Congress in 1929 Lahore session.
Before 1929, main demand was some form of self government. So, it was failure of British government to provide some sort of self government through  Government of India Act of 1919, that formed one of the causes of NCM.


Q.2) Which of the following leaders actively participated in Non Cooperation Movement ?
1. Bipin Chandra Pal
2. Annie Besant
3. Subhash Chandra Bose
4. Motilal Nehru
A. 1,2
B. 2,3
C. 3,4
D. All of the above


Answer – C
Hint – Those who did not participate in Non Cooperation Movement –
Annie Besant
In 1920, when Mahatma Gandhi launched the non-cooperation movement Besant opposed the means adopted by the Mahatma even while agreeing with the objective of the movement.
This sharp difference of opinion had an adverse effect on her popularity and she gradually withdrew from the political field.
Bipan Chandra Pal
He opposed Gandhiji’s non-cooperation Movement of 1920. His criticism of Gandhi was persistent beginning with Gandhi’s arrival in India and open in 1921 session of the Indian National Congress where he delivered in his presidential speech a severe criticism of Gandhi’s ideas as based on magic rather than logic


Those who participated actively
Jawaharlal Nehru – Encouraged the formation of Kisan Sabhas. He was against Gandhi’s decision to withdraw the movement.
Subhash Chandra Bose – He resigned from the civil service. He was appointed as the principal of the National College in Calcutta
Motilal Nehru – He renounced his legal practice and joined the movement.


Sample Mains Questions
Q1 – What reasons led to withdrawal of Non Cooperation Movement by Mahatma Gandhi ?  (10 marks, 150 words)
Q2 – What were the causes of Non Cooperation Movement ? What was the significance of Non Cooperation Movement in Indian freedom struggle ? (15 marks, 250 words)
Q3 – Critically analyse the move of Gandhi ji to include Khilafat issue under Non Cooperation Movement. Did it succeed in the aim of Gandhi ji of securing communal harmony in India ?
(15 marks, 250 words)


Part 2 –

How to take care of chronology while studying Modern history?

Most of aspirants take history preparation as fact memorising activity. But it is more than just facts. It is as logical as science. Every event which took place had some causes and subsequently inspired many other events. One needs to connect the dots while studying history.


The chronology of events become very important. This write up will focus on how to study history keeping tab on year of occurrence of event. Along with it, always try to question yourself – WHY the event took place ?


Let us take an example of the events which took place in India during World War II (WW II)
Germany attacked Poland in September 1939 which led to WW II. British declared war against Germany and declared India’s support for the war without consulting Indian opinion.


Congress offer to Viceroy in return of support
1. Constituent assembly after war
2. Immediately, some form of responsible government.


Offer rejected by Lord Linthgow, the then Viceroy
October 1939 – Resignation of Congress Ministeries
Lord Linlithgow announced August Offer in August 1940


Proposals –
1. Dominion status as objective for India
2. Expansion of Viceroy’s executive Council
3. Setting up of a constituent assembly after the war comprising MAINLY Indians
Nehru said – “Dominion Status concept is dead as a doornail”
August offer failed, but for the first time DOMINION STATUS was explicitly offer and for the first time, the inherent right of Indians to frame their constitution was recogined.
End of 1940 – INDIVIDUAL SATYAGRAHA – Gandhi ji decided to initiate a limited Satyagraha by a selected individuals in every locality.


Question for readersWhy Gandhiji launched individual satyagraha instead of nation wide satyagraha?
By May 1941, 25000 people had been convicted for individual civil disobedience.
Early 1942 – There was pressure on Britain from the Allies (USA, USSR, China) to seek Indian cooperation.
So Cripps Mission was sent to India in March 1942.


1. Dominion status
2. Consituent assembly to frame constitution after war
3. Provinces not willing to join Union could have separate constitution, form separate union
4. Defence of India to remain in British hands


Cripps mission failed
Question for readers – Reasons for its failure


Quit India Movement – August 1942
After Cripps’ departure, Gandhi framed a resolution calling for British withdrawal and a non violent, non cooperation movement against any Japanese invasion.
August 8, 1942 – Quit India resolution was ratified at the Congress meeting at Gowalia Tank, Bombay


Task for readers – Prepare notes on QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT as described for Non Cooperation Movement above.
Meanwhile, efforts to solve ongoing constitutional crisis
1. C Rajagopalachari (CR) formula for Congress League cooperation in 1944.
2. Desai Liaqat Pact
3. Wavell Plan in June 1945
After this, one has to prepare Post WWII national scenario


Note: I have just provided outlines of major events. An aspirant needs to analyse each of the mentioned events as
1. What were the main proposals ?
2. Which parties accepted and who rejected the offer ?
3. Reasons for failure of offer/formula

Sample MCQ

Q) Arrange the following events in chronological order
1. Launch of Individual Satyagraha
2. August Offer
3. Launch of Quit India Movement
4. Cripps mission
A. 2 – 4 – 1 – 3
B. 1 – 2 – 4 – 3
C. 2 – 1 – 3 – 4
D. 2 – 1 – 4 – 3


Answer – D

A question on chronology was asked in CSE 2018 prelims

Q) Which among the following events happened earliest?
A.  Swami Dayanand established Arya Samaj.
B. Dinbandhu Mitra wrote Neeldarpan
C. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote Anandmath
D. Satyendra Nath Tagore became the first Indian to succeed in the Indian Civil Services Examination


Answer – B
Hint –
Arya samaj was established by Swami Dayanand in 1875
Dinbandhu Mitra wrote Nildarpan in 1860, a play based on Indigo Rebellion in Bengal at that time
Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya wrote Anandmath in 1882, based on Sanyasi rebellion.
Satyendranath Tagore was selected for the Indian Civil Service in June, 1863


Concluding Remarks:

A lot of people ask – Why to study history? What is the relevance of history in modern world? 
1. History is the mirror to our civilisation and society. Ever thought why India ended up as a constitutional democracy. How did civil services evolve? Answers to all these questions are hidden in history.
2. History is a great teacher. It is always better to learn from others’ mistakes than to learn after committing mistakes.
3. Good understanding of history helps in policy making process.
So the next time you get bored of history, realise that it is more than memorising facts. It is a story which has influenced our present and has power to influence our future.
Thank You


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