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Fiction vs History: The Real Game of Thrones

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The adventures of the inhabitants of Westeros with its warriors, dragons, dynastic struggles and court intrigues will soon be coming to a close as the last televised adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels gets underway.

However many of the themes, settings and characters presented throughout this long-running series reflect actual historical epochs as well as a range of popular fantasy tropes. What then was the real world of ‘Game of Thrones’ like? For example, how does A Song of Ice and Fire reflect the medieval and Tudor worlds of Europe?

How closely does the Stark Family resemble the structure of heroic society of the Viking or the Celtic realms? To what extent does the use of magic resonate with magic in other fantasies and with attitudes to Renaissance and medieval magic, and lastly how do mythical creatures like dragons and dire wolves reflect the tropes of fantasy writing?

This course is for anyone with an interest in medieval history, early modern history and / or its representation in literature, and the enthusiasm to take that interest further. It operates as part of the Exploring the Past and Inside Narratives pathways, and will equip you with the knowledge, understanding and skills that will help you to study other courses in the pathway.

Learning and teaching

This course consists of nine units. Each unit comprises a 2-hour face-to-face session between 19:00 and 21:00. These sessions will include lectures, class discussions and debates, pair-work and group-work, source analysis activities and exercises to develop your academic skills. There will also be a strong emphasis on learning outside of the classroom, facilitated by the university’s Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Central.

Coursework and assessment

Students will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:

  • a 500-word source analysis
  • a 1000-word essay.

Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Reading suggestions

  • William Clapton, Laura J Shepherd, ‘Lessons from Westeros: Gender and power in Game of Thrones,’ Politics, 37 (2017), 5-18
  • Barry Coward (ed.), A Companion to Stuart Britain (Oxford, 2003).
  • Valerie Estelle Frankel, Women in Game of Thrones: Power, Conformity and Resistance (Jefferson, NC, 2014)
  • C. Jamison, ‘Reading Westeros: George R.R. Martin’s Multi-Layered Medievalisms’ in Studies in Medievalism XXVI: Ecomedievalism, ed. K. Fugelso (Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer, 2017), pp. 131-42
  • Carolyne Larrington, Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones (London and New York, 2016)
  • Katie Stevenson and Barbara Gribling (eds) Chivalry and the Medieval Past (Boydell and Brewer, 2016)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.


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