Important Terms in History for UPSC Preparation

Important Terms in History for UPSC Preparation

History is the most vital part of UPSC preparation. From prelims to mains to the final interview, you’ll encounter History questions in every phase of the UPSC Civil Services Examination. Ignoring the importance of the events and lessons from the past is not possible at all. When you first start to study History books, you come across a lot of words and analogies that are difficult to comprehend. Sometimes students start to feel disconnected and bored because all of these things that look complex but are very simple in reality. To help you with that, IAS ke Funde has compiled a list of the most used terminologies in History for UPSC preparation.

Our list includes the most common terms you’ll find in the history books. Most of the terms we’ve mentioned are a part of Ancient History for UPSC only. Because in Modern History, the terms used are more contemporary, making them easy to understand. The major problem faced by students is in the Ancient History section. So, here it is the Ultimate List of Important Terms in History for UPSC Preparation.


    • Prehistoric: The start of the times since we started recording history. For these times, there is no literary evidence available. The only source of knowledge about this period is the archaeological surveys and excavation. It is considered that this period ended about 25 thousand years ago.
    • Proto-Historic: The times for which the literary evidence is available, but we are not able to decipher them yet. For example, the scripts from the Harappan Age. In some cases, the civilizations from this era hadn’t developed in a literary sense, but they have been mentioned in other works of writing by travelers. It is considered as a transition phase between Prehistoric times and Modern history.
    • Modern history: The period since Vedic times. The written proofs of every event are available along with the archaeological discoveries, which help us to reconstruct the past times. The end of modern history is a topic of debate among scholars. Many believe that the scope of modern history ends after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Others propose that recent events like 9/11 define the ending phase of Modern history. For UPSC, the syllabus for modern history ends after India got independence from the British Empire.
    • -lithic: You would have encountered a lot of terms ending with -lithic in Ancient History. For example, Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, etc. These words are used to categorize the ages in history during human evolution. The term ‘lithic’ comes from a Greek word lithikós, which means ‘Stone’. Thus the word ‘lithic’ defines the stone ages.
    • Paleo: Paleo means Old, and thus, ‘Paleolithic’ means ‘Old Stone’ Age. Paleolithic Age is the oldest era in human history. During these times, humans had developed tools made of stone, but there was no knowledge of agriculture. Humans used to hunt and scavenge for food and shelter. 
    • Meso: Meso simply means ‘middle’. Mesolithic is the transition phase between the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages. During this period, humans learned to make sharp bladed weapons from stone, fishing, food gathering, and domesticating animals in the later stages. The people of this age also started painting depicting animals, birds, and humans. 
    • Neo: Neo is the Greek word for ‘new’. Neolithic times are the end of the stone age. This period lasted for around 3,000 years and marked the evolution of humans as a social being. We learned agriculture, pottery, and cooking during this era. Neolithic Age is a milestone in the evolution of human beings as a social animal.
    • Chalco: Chalco means copper. Chalcolithic Age denotes the period of in the 4th and 3rd millennia. It is the time when humans first learned about metallurgy. This era was not the complete transition from stone to metal, though. Chalcolithic means copper and stone. The humans were learning the smelting techniques for copper and bronze, but at the same time, the stone was still used wherever necessary.
    • Paleolithic+Mesolithic+Neolithic: These times are considered Prehistoric times. There is no literary evidence available for these times. All the information we have is from the excavations and fossils.
    • Chalcolithic: The Proto-historic era of human history. Since the humans had started learning to paint in the Neolithic Age and the art of writing also started evolving after the Chalcolithic Age, there are some literary pieces of evidence available for this period.

      Important Terms in History for UPSC Preparation
      Sources of History:

    • Literary:
      Literary sources are those which are mentioned in the form of writing or any other art. Such sources are of two types:

      • Factual:
        The Literary sources which have been proved right after the archaeological surveys are considered factual.
      • Mythological:
        The sources which are not proven yet or can not be proven are considered mythological sources. 
    • Archaeological:
      The sources labeled as ‘Archaeological’ provide the real world information through excavation of sites, studying the old architecture, writing, and other forms of data. Archaeological study has further three categories:

      • Numismatic:
        This field involves the study of coins and other money related objects. The pattern of the distribution of coins, tokens, medals, and other currencies can tell about the ruling kingdoms in a particular area.
      • Epigraphy:
        The remains of ancient texts and inscription reveal a lot about a particular age. The study that deals with the reading, comprehension, and deciphering of inscription and writings is Epigraphy.
      • Structures and Remains:
        The architecture and remains of other artifacts of a civilization are crucial for understanding the culture and evolution of the society in an area. So, their study helps a lot in understanding the history of a particular period.These were the most important terms from History for UPSC Preparation. Keep suggesting us new terms to add to our list and help others in their History preparation for UPSC Civil Services Exam.For more awesome posts, subscribe to IAS ke Funde. (link Click here)

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