As we approach the premiere of Season 4 tonight, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has been reading over the past year. History Behind Game of Thrones had its first nameday on March 23rd.
When I started this website, it was a bit of an experiment. I wasn’t sure how many similarities I would be able to find between history and George RR Martin’s work. I figured I’d end up killing the blog after 2-3 weeks. In fact, I didn’t even realize I was that interested in George RR Martin’s work. (Perhaps, the fact I’d raced through the novels and watched every episode of Season 1 & 2 five to ten times might have been a clue. :)) But, I knew that I loved history and I wanted to write about it in a unique way.
History Behind Game of Thrones has been a real adventure for me. To begin with, I didn’t realize that I really only knew about the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors in any kind of depth. Big mistake. Game of Thrones (and ASOIAF) leverages a lot more historical periods that just those two. As a result, this website has really challenged me to read more and learn more. (Something I’m embarrassed to admit, but it’s true.)
To do the research required for the posts, I think I’ve read over 100 history books and journal articles in the last year — sometimes skimming, sometimes rereading. I’ve also had to read about many areas, including warfare and chivalry, which never interested me but now do and have made me grow as a person.
Even after a year of research, I keep uncovering parallels with areas of history that I’ve barely touched. I now understand why George RR Martin has a house across the street for his office. (I strongly suspect he ran out of space to store all his books.)
I imagine some of you reading this might be thinking, why on earth would anyone go through all of this? And, just how obsessed are you? I do love Game of Thrones, but I am not a superfan; I’ve never been to Comicon or any conventions. However, I’m sure I’d love it. I am, however, a superfan of medieval history, and I’m going to Kalamazoo next month.
Rather I write the posts because I love the idea that somebody could “experience” history or learn about it by mapping it onto something concrete like an event or character in their favorite TV show or novel. Not just any show would let you do this. But Game of Thrones has enough complexity and world building that it’s possible.
In my opinion, George RR Martin’s choice and use of historical events implies a specific interpretation of history. For example, he suggests at least one very specific interpretation of Richard III. Studying the themes in his work have challenged me to think about history in ways that just picking up the latest book on the Wars of the Roses never would have. A few examples would include: the true essence of chivalry and how its myth affected our culture, the Hundred Years’ War and whether we should reflect on which English kings we define as “great,” and the lack of medieval political history told from the perspective of the 99%.
History Behind Game of Thrones has turned into a much bigger website than I ever imagined. There are at least 180 pages of content – some good, some bad, and some (which I’ve written) that are downright embarrassing. In the last year, we have had 206,816 views – and in fact, 110,282 of those have been in the first three months of this year. In February, we had an astonishing 21,309 visitors. Thanks for reading! We’ve also been interviewed or noted by magazines around the world, including the BBC, Mashable, Grantland, and Galileu in Brazil.
Before I started this site, I’d never really blogged before, so I didn’t know what to expect. What’s surprised me the most is how much I enjoy interacting with you guys. Some of the comments I get are so intelligent and erudite they blow me away. Many of you have knowledge of history that far exceeds my own, and it is quite humbling. Before I started this blog, I didn’t know hardly anyone that was into history, so for me that’s been the most meaningful and best part.
Since the Game of Thrones showrunners have sliced and diced the ASOIAF novels a little differently than how George RR Martin wrote them, it is a little difficult to predict what we will see this season. However, at least so far, Season 4 promises to be very exciting.
We are starting to move into, what is arguably, more of a “Tudor” phase in the books. But, there are still lots of influences from other periods, including fourteenth and fifteenth-century England and France, the early middle ages, the Romans, the Vikings, the Moors, the Crusades, and, maybe even, the Byzantine empire.
Without giving away “historical spoilers,” some upcoming articles include, in addition to the above, more interviews with historians, a series on Anne Boleyn, eunuchs, medieval weddings, and, what can I say, probably some good old fashion sex and violence.
In the next few months, I’d love to try to revitalize our forum, which sadly gets very neglected. And, maybe even have a few contests. After the season is over, we may also introduce some articles about the historical tie-ins to a few other history shows.
This site would not have been possible without the kindness of readers and the support of fellow writers. Early on, I became very discouraged that nobody was reading, assumed people thought this was a silly idea, and almost quit writing. Martine Alexis’ kind words over Twitter gave me the confidence to continue. When people email and say they enjoy site, it means a lot. Thank you.
I think I would drowned in the obscurity, work and complexity of blogging long ago if I didn’t have Olga Hughes – who is half a world away — to commiserate, and sometimes celebrate, with. Olga is my “Australian blogger friend” as I call her — even though she runs a magazine (Nerdalicious) not a blog – and we exchange emails daily. Olga contributes to this site despite the grind of running a daily news magazine. Nobody works harder or is more supportive of her friends. Her magazine publishes Game of Thrones news almost daily as well as interviews with historians, history articles, book reviews, Dr. Who news, and more. (Definitely check out her latest article on Sansa.) Olga’s connections with historians are directly responsible for the upcoming interview series.
If you want to support History Behind Game of Thrones, tell your friends, share our articles on Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter, and email/comment/participate and enjoy. Anyway, thanks for reading, writing in, and for being as excited about history and Game of Thrones as we are!