We have a number of historical dictionaries in our collection that are great for getting historical background information on a country and to see some of the events that have had an impact. You can search the library using "historical dictionary of [insert the name of the country]". A few examples are listed below.
Another great source is the Country Studies series [formerly known as "Army Area Handbooks]. this series "presents a description and analysis of the historical settinga and the social, economic, political, and national security systems" of many countries throughtout the world.