So where is this leading me? Well, I want to digest the inchoate mass of data and re-express it as some form of entertainment. There is too wide a range her, I suspect, for a campaign game; and I can't expect anyone to read great mass of background just to play a role playing game "correctly." Popular history can be fun, but I really don't have any sort of hook for non-fiction and I think that to do it right needs more scholaly training and experience than I will ever have.
Fiction, then. Right now, I am thinking of an historical mystery set in Tuscany somewhere about 1470. The period and place are well documented and academically popular so research is not a hardship. I already have a good library on the subject, and the local university libraries are also well stocked.
I am starting by trying to get a grip on factors that shape people - birth, education, careers, death. In order to move beyond the focused-but-casual reading I have done in the past I have used the old method from my student days: a tub of index cards and short, well-filed, and referenced notes. I find the simple act of writing helps with my retention, and gives me something to order later when I am trying to filter out anachronism. I want to write about quattrocento Italians, not 21st century Canadians in fancy dress.
This will take a long time, so we will see how we do. It is at least cheap. And in a century where self-publication is so easy I can at least be certain that if I finish it will be available for people to buy and read. If they will or no is another matter.
But how about a fun little song from just a little bit later than the period I am interested in?