Tigana involved a more eclectic set of readings than any of the books that came after, and I suppose that’s reflected in the range of themes in the book.
The ambience and some of the political underpinnings are (fairly evidently, I suspect) Italianate and Renaissance. The histories of this period are so numerous as to be overwhelming, and if I offer a personal selection here of those I drew upon it is with an awareness of how many other works are out there.
The most famous general history is Burkhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance. I took a little more of particular use and interest from Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy by Lauro Martines. Both books make clear the degree to which the internecine feuding and warfare among the Italian cities left them wide open to invasion from outside.
Two books by J. R. Hale are also very useful: War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450-1620 and Renaissance Europe 1480-1520. Philippe Contamine’s War In the Middle Ages covers ground well into the early Renaissance and is (justly) seen as a classic text. For me, all of these books served more to offer ambience and a sense of flavour, rather than precise historical details but the details are wonderful.
On Florence (Firenze), which became a particular interest, the American scholar Gene Brucker seems to have spent his professional life doing wonderfully interesting work. I like everything he’s written. I’ll mention his major history, Renaissance Florence, an assembling of contemporary documents called The Society of Renaissance Florence, and a wonderful pairing of two merchants’ diaries called Two Memoirs of Renaissance Florence, along with another bit of detective work among the lives of people in the past entitled Giovanni and Lusanna: Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence.
I was keenly interested in commerce and ‘ordinary’ lives in the 15th century, beyond the doings of the prominent figures, and these various books offered windows for me. In the same vein is The Memoir of Marco Parenti: A Life in Medici Florence by Mark Phillips, and I really hope I can steer readers to Iris Origo’s classic The Merchant of Prato which will introduce into their lives the unforgettable pair, Francesco di Marco Datini (the merchant) and his lifelong friend, notary, and confidant, Ser Lappo Mazzei, two men one would have liked to meet. It is a wonderful book.
A hugely ambitious, magisterial pair of books by the great Fernard Braudel, The Structures of Everyday Life and The Wheels of Commerce explore civilization and capitalism from the 15th to the 18th century. They represent a major attempt at historical synthesis, but are also wonderfully detailed and engaging on matters of how people lived and they are beautifully illustrated.
Finally, on this historical footing, I’ll mention Carlo Ginsburg’s absorbing Night Battles (I Benandanti), which is the book that gave me my Night Walkers and coalesced ideas about introducing a pagan agrarian ritual and supernatural battle in the middle of a deliberately human-scaled novel. Ginsburg’s is a superb book, for a great many reasons.
On a completely different level, Tigana was influenced by two contemporary writers. The early work of Milan Kundera, Laughable Loves and The Farewell Party and The Joke, started me thinking about issues of conquest and political (military) subjugation and self-respect and human sexuality among the conquered. All of this works its way pretty strongly into the novel and Kundera also contributed to more general reflections on eastern Europe, Maoist China (and its eradication of history) and then, by natural extension the interplay of language and history and identity.
And this led me back (though I couldn’t say why!) to Brian Friel’s quite brilliant play, Translations, which I’d seen (and then read) some time earlier. I’d say this was the work, more than anything else, that inspired the idea of using magic as a device and a metaphor for the obliteration of the name of Tigana.