A writerly site for finding historical events in character lifespans
Our TimeLines.com allows you to enter a birth and death year from (Western calendar) 1000 on, and it will plot major historical events, showing the person's age. While it really for genealogists, this is a neat thing for quickly prototyping lifespans for characters in fiction. I'm one of those folks who's usually asking myself, "what's happening when this character is 10 years old?" and end up pulling out "The Timetables of History."
Admittedly, this doesn't replace the spadework of linking up a character to their milieu, but as a first approximation, this site does a dandy job. Just think of it as a Rails scaffold. ;)