Tom Holland on ‘A Game of Thrones’
The ‘Game of Thrones’ series has provoked interest and discussion by IR scholars since it originally premièred – Charli Carpenter providing what were probably the most interesting and perceptive analysis of the series through the lens of IR theory. Whilst many people made good points and fair criticisms in those discussions (many of which apply with full force to the series but less so to the books themselves), I think that Tom Holland really has his finger on the pulse of the series in this article, emphasising the parallels between events in the saga and the historical realities of the bloody business of kingmaking and medieval statecraft. It’s the verisimilitude with the oppressive, patriarchal and violent era which inspires it that sets GoTs apart from the sanitised romantic fantasy that is often served up within the genre. Holland isn’t reserved with his praise:
The result, paradoxically, is that there are sequences where the invented world of Westeros can seem more realistic than the evocations of the past to be found in many a historical novel. No fiction set in the 14th century, for instance, has ever rivalled the portrayal in Game of Thrones of what, for a hapless peasantry, the ambitions of rival kings were liable to mean in practice: the depredations of écorcheurs; rape and torture; the long, slow agonies of famine. The pleasures of historical fiction and of authentic, adrenaline-charged suspense, of not knowing who will triumph and who will perish, have never before been so brilliantly combined. Imagine watching a drama set in the wars of the roses, or at the court of Henry VIII, and having absolutely no idea what is due to happen. No wonder Game of Thrones has been such a success – and that historians can relish it as much as anyone.