Thomas Shelby – who is this mysterious man? The leader of Peaky Blinders is definitely an interesting character. Who was his historical prototype? Who were the real Peaky Blinders?
Thomas Shelby and the Peaky Blinders series are the perfect proof of the everlasting interest in the criminal world. Just to cite a few of the most popular series, such as The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy. We as society are interested in people who break out of the social norms, and when they are portrayed in such a skillful way as Thomas Shelby – it is a recipe for success.
Who is Thomas Shelby?
Thomas Michael “Tommy” Shelby was born in 1890 into a family with Roma roots. He is the second oldest child in the family. His father is Arthur Shelby Sr, and his mother is known only as Mrs. Shelby. The woman committed suicide in 1909, long before the events of the series. Tommy’s older brother is named Arthur, the two younger brothers are John and Finn, and his only sister is Ada. The role of mother for the siblings has been assumed by their aunt Elizabeth “Polly” Gray, who plays an important role not only in the family, but also in the gang.
Little is revealed to viewers regarding Tommy’s youth. We know that he was in love with Greta Jurossi, who died after a long illness. This fact was the main motivation for the young man to volunteer for the Great War. During his service he showed valor and often took part in the most risky actions. His war experiences caused him to struggle with PTSD, which is a recurring theme in the series.
We only learn about what Thomas was like in the past from mentions in conversations, and only in the early seasons. We know that before Greta’s death, he was a more energetic and charming young man. Throughout his beloved’s illness, he never left her side and Greta’s death broke him. Additionally, his war experiences made him lose all faith in people and he became a very cold and calculating person. He also decided that he would pull his family out of the poverty of the working-class neighborhood so that no one could do them any harm. These qualities made him the perfect gang leader, but he remained a deeply unhappy person too.
How old is Thomas Shelby and who he was?
As was mentioned earlier – Thomas Shelby was born in 1890, so he is 43 years old in season 6 (its action is set in 1933). We first meet the 29 years old Tommy in 1919, when he has been discharged from the army and returned to his hometown of Small Heath, Birmingham. Along with his brothers Arthur and John, he takes back control of the gang and outlines a vision for the development of the Peaky Blinders. They quickly rearm with military rifles, significantly increasing the strength of the organization.
Using their experience that they gained during their service in military, they expand their influence with new sources of income. First on target is horse racing, which is a very popular and profitable form of gambling. After securing income in Birmingham, the Peaky Blinders decide to establish a base of business in London, which is controlled by several gangs. Initially, they get into a conflict with the Italian Sabini family, and then – go to the leader of the opposing gang – Alfie Solomons.
The leader of the organization consisting mainly of representatives of the Jewish minority turns out to be a person who does not believe in lasting alliances and as often betrays the Shelbys as helps them. Tommy must take turns getting into conflicts with rival gangs and Major Campbell, who is still on the trail of a missing shipment of rifles, seized by gangsters from Birmingham.
Later, the Shelby brothers have to deal with Russian counter-revolutionaries and communists, where they side with the opponents of Soviet power. Thomas proves time and again that he is a cunning leader and plans everything well in advance, although he is not omniscient either.
When representatives of the Italian mafia from overseas knock on his door – coming as revenge for one of their representatives – the gang boss has to take care of his family’s safety and secure the empire. He also has a keen sense and understanding of the interplay of the criminal world, which he uses to his and his family’s advantage.
How to be like Thomas Shelby? Gangster personality
In his personal life, as well as in his professional one, Thomas Shelby is a poised, observant person who is merciless to any threats against him or his family. Unfortunately, over time, the number of tough decisions he has had to make begins to take its toll on him, making him more and more depressed and unhappy from episode to episode. He is not a man who can show emotion, even to people he thinks are special – like Grace, his first wife.
However, his problems with showing emotions do not prevent him from building strong relationships and trust. Everyone around him sees him as the pillar holding up the entire family gang. Even serious disagreements between family members are not able to shake the trust they have in each other. Tommy can also be generous and forgive minor offenses, but he never forgets them.
Who is Thomas Shelby based on?
Thomas Michael “Tommy” Shelby’s character is entirely fictional, as are the other main characters in the series. What was true, however, was the Peaky Blinders gang, although a lot of information about them is far from the truth as well.
The Peaky Blinders gang originated from the working class of industrial Birmingham. Historians trace the origins of the organization to the 1880s. According to estimates, the gang was broken up a few years before World War I, and after the Great War the Peaky Blinders referred to any organized crime based mainly on violence.
In the early years, gang members focused on robberies of passersby and beatings. Over time, their scope of activity expanded significantly to include extortion, forgery, property seizures, smuggling, kidnapping and “creative” accounting. The criminals were also unabashed and most of their activity was carried out with violence. Not only did they attack passersby – there were gang wars that escalated into shoot-outs, and police officers were often attacked and ambushed.
However, there is nothing to indicate or confirm the existence of a larger, organized group. Certainly there were thugs among the gangsters who were temporarily more respected and whose opinions were more important. However, there is no indication of the level of organization depicted in the series.
Since you’re reading this post, I’m assuming you’ve heard of the series Peaky Blinders. Do you like Thomas Shelby’s character? Share your opinion in the comments.