Basic Country Background Information
CIA World Factbook
The World Factbook, produced by the Central Intelligence Agency and maintained online, provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 266 world entities.
U.S. State Department Country Background Notes
These online publications include facts about the land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy, and foreign relations of independent states, some dependencies, and areas of special sovereignty.
BBC Country Profiles
The British Broadcasting Corporations country profiles provide an instant guide to history, politics and economic background of countries and territories, and background on key institutions. They may also include audio or video clips from BBC archives.