George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is a masterful and sprawling work of fiction dealing in the stuff of magic and dragons, but the complex power plays and intrigues between the major players was inspired a bit by history, specifically by the 15th century European chaos and conflicts known as The Wars of the Roses.
The Wars of the Roses is co complicated that it isn’t easy to piece together, and brief mentions of it in history class can often seem mangled and confusing, but Alison Weir’s Wars of the Roses does a good job connecting the pieces into a narrative. George R.R. Martin did not life directly story lines from Wars of the Roses, but he had said that it was a source of inspiration. “There’s really no one-for-one character-for-character correspondence. I like to use history to flavor my fantasy, to add texture and verisimilitude, but simply rewriting history with the names changed has no appeal for me. I prefer to re-imagine it all, and take it in new and unexpected directions.”
While there may be no one-to-one character correspondence, the two major families in Game of Thrones, the Starks and the Lannisters, where inspired by two branches of the House of Plantagenet vying for the English throne: the Yorks (who lived in the north,) and the Lancasters (who were wealthy.)
George R.R. Martin draws inspiration from other parts of history, like Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland, and many of the sci-fi, historical fiction, and fantasy authors like Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert A. Heinlein, Eric Frank Russell, and Andre Norton.