The history textbook controversy in India between 1998 and 2004 saw the opposition of two series of textbooks. A major subject of disagreement concerned the treatment of conflicts: first, the interpretation of certain events as conflicts, and then their inclusion or omission in the textbooks. This article analyses the way social conflicts and violence have been thematised in history textbooks in India over the last forty years. The argument here is that when the textbooks are elaborated primarily as nation-building instruments, the historical narratives they contain avoid the representation of social conflicts within the nation. This implies that conflicts (and violence) can be mentioned, but only when they involve the nation against its ‘others’. This hypothesis is developed comparing the historical narratives in successive textbooks on medieval and modern India.