I couldn’t have said it better myself…


In the category of “I couldn’t have said it better myself,” I found this delightful article about Game of Thrones and history from Cinemania in Madrid, “6 lecciones de Historia que has visto en ‘Juego de tronos’ by Yago Garcia. My Spanish is terrible and Google Translate chokes on this article, so here is my very crude translation…

The article begins with the most common excuses we hear for not watching GoT or reading ASOIAF – and, boy, do I get sick of hearing these.

(How is it that so many women I know (offline) don’t watch Game of Thrones and look at me like I’m a freak for having this blog? It’s the biggest show in the world right now. It’s like we are all back in high school, and my friends are afraid they will get cooties from the D&D crowd. Grow up. Plus fantasy is cool — at the very least, get with the new millennium.) But, I digress.

Back to the Cinemania article… Garcia opens the article with a great retort to those excuses:

Oh no, it’s much too violentit has dragons and dragons are for kidsyou have to keep closing your eyes because of all the nudity… These are the numerous reasons your family and friends keep giving for not watching Game of Thrones.

But, we have an ideal comeback for you: HBO’s series is not only one of the best shows made today (if not ever) but it also helps you to learn history.” [How can you not love this article???]

It gets better.

“George RR Martin, author of the meganovelon – and isn’t that a great word? A Song of Ice and Fire, is a great admirer of Bernard Cornwell, Maurice Druon, and other novelists who delve into the bloodiest parts of the Middle Ages. And (as the incorrigible reader that he is) he likes to delve into crazy kings, battlefields, and dynastic intrigue.

To explore all the history on which Martin has based his work on would practically require an encyclopedia (or such a great blog as History Behind Game of Thrones)really, I’m not making it up, Cinemania did print that — , but we can offer this handy guide that will inform you on the basis of it.”

I loved this article because I so strongly agree that Martin’s work really does help you learn history if you choose to engage with it that way. I feel like the history in ASOIAF is one of its most important and under recognized aspects.

His work helps you imagine how the classes and competing interests engaged with each other. Even tiny details like people sizing others up by the sigils woven into their clothing brings to life what in all likelihood did happen. His work shows history in action instead of lying flat on the page of a dusty text book.

Plus, by including strong female characters, Martin makes ASOIAF much more accessible than some of the more masculine-driven fantasy and historical novels. He also creates a symphonic-type of integration between the layers of medieval society that is typically lacking when you read historical non-fiction.

It’s great to see Martin’s work getting the recognition for its historical contribution that it deserves. @Yago Garcia: thanks!

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."


  • Reply July 11, 2015

    G Hiatt

    I’m fascinated by what life was like before the French Revolution; back when the Monarchy/Aristocracy/Church was unchallenged for power. It’s difficult to imagine life under the ‘Ancien Regime’ – when the ‘natural order’ meant a society based on those who fight, those who pray, and those who work.
    If you can truly, fully, imagine living in such a world then you can understand why Denis Diderot said “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest” – which is something I hope to see in season 7.
    Anyway, reading and watching GOT allows me to vicariously experience a patriarchal, rightwing, non-egalitarian dystopia, and it’s fascinating.

    • Reply July 12, 2015


      Remember that those groups were hardly a unified order devoted to keeping the common man down, they often had quarrels (sometimes bloody ones) with each other and even in their own institutions (and as in the books, historically the church was at different times and in different places a force for the masses). It definitely wasn’t a very good time (I’m assuming we’re talking about roughly the 9th century to perhaps 15th century here and not earlier or later parts of the medieval era) to be part of 99% of the European population, but there you could find regional variations. Though with that said, would I want to live there? Of course not. Not always living down to the infamous reputation doesn’t mean that you’ve got a nice system.

      Also calling it right wing is looking at it with politics that developed much later. The Starks who tend to be much more aware (at least the ones who were in the show) of their peasants aren’t to the left of the Lannisters.

  • Reply July 12, 2015

    Watcher on the Couch

    Firstly Jamie, glad to see you back. I was a bit worried you had abandoned the blog because of the folk who had pinched your work and passed it off as their own. – though to be fair you had addressed this already on a comment under the “Mother’s Mercy” thread. Of course you are a real life person with a real life job that has to be fitted in.

    Mind you, not even considering GoT, I have an interest in history and it’s surprising how many people I meet say “I don’t like history, it’s boring”. Because of recent events in the UK, King Richard III has been flavour of the month to a certain extent.

    GoT can be enjoyed on more than one level – just for the story, wondering what will happen next (I’m “Sullied” now but there have been some divergences from the books) or for looking for historical inspirations. Off topic, I try to avoid threads or videos with speculation about “how it will end” because I don’t want t be “spoiled” though I may have one or two ideas of my own – which knowing my luck will probably turn out to be wrong. Thanks for finding the Spanish article and sharing it – I know what you mean about online translation programmes.

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