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July 11, 2016 at 10:57 am

Slate Magazine Interviews History’s Uhalde about Game of Thrones

Dr. Kevin Uhalde

Dr. Kevin Uhalde

Slate Magazine‘s Culture Blog recently featured an interview with Dr. Kevin Uhalde, Associate Professor of History at Ohio University. The interview explores possible historical inspirations and parallels for the hit series Game of Thrones.

Asked about how series creator George R. R. Martin might understand the history his show draws on, Uhalde responded that:

George Martin has always been upfront that his story is deeply informed by history. His characters are constructed around the way that ancient and medieval people thought about their world, about history, and about time. And even though it’s a show defined by its heroes, what really drives the plot and sets the tone for the stories is all the stuff outside people’s control. . . .

Read the full interview “History Has Some Bad News for Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen.”

Uhalde is a historian of the Mediterranean and Western Europe during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. His research focuses on the formation and varieties of Christian societies, as well as law and legal culture in practice. Uhalde’s first book, Expectations of Justice in the Age of Augustine (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007) highlights his interest in how intellectuals, including religious professionals and secular officials, handled the ordinary failures of society.

In addition to his History Department position, Uhalde is an active faculty member in the Center for Law, Justice & Culture.

During Fall 2016, Uhalde is offering the following courses:

  • HIST 1210: Western Civilization, Antiquity to 1500
  • HIST 3531: The Barbarian West, Europe 400-1000
Uhalde’s course on “The Barbarian West” includes most of the specific historical figures and events he used to compare with Game of Thrones in the interview. However, rather than focusing so much on England, the course spends equal time on Franks and Vikings, with some attention to Goths and Vandals. His course on “Western Civilization to 1500” focuses on the themes he discusses in the interview: how states maintain power, different strategies for imperial domination, and whether individuals really change history.
Uhalde regularly teaches two other related courses. One is a Tier 3 course on the “Philosophy of History,” which explores in-depth how we understand history and our place in it. It was Uhalde’s interest in this topic and his teaching of this course that led him to mention the famous philosopher, Hegel, and what he called “World Historical Individuals.” The other course is more obviously relevant to Game of Thrones, HIST 1222: Medieval History in Film & Literature. Focusing on the variety of ways we imagine the Middle Ages, the course pays particular attention to the challenge of balancing accuracy and realism. Throughout the course, Uhalde leads his students in analyzing television shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings, video and role-playing games, and lots of movies.

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