The most useful activity one can undertake when trying to get some sense of historical context is to make a time line. Plot the evolution of lettering styles, using photocopied examples and place the scripts/type alongside other contemporary developments in European and world history. This will reveal a visual sequence of forms and enable you to relate all your reading within one chronological framework. Do this for manuscript writing and type forms.
Suggested texts for discussion: G. Sturt, The Wheelwright's Shop. The book is a classic study of the impact of the industrial revolution on rural England and is set in Farnham. The book was published in the 1920's. Many of the issues it identifies are now played out upon a global scale. A comparison between this book and an article on the current impact of technology would provide many possible topics for discussion.
The most important thing to do at the outset of any historical studies is to establish a broad overview. The best resources here, surprisingly, are Encyclopedia articles, usually written by the top authorities in the field, they will give you a brief but accurate survey of the subject (see resources ).