I’ve put together a quick and dirty timeline of major political, religious, and literary events leading up to and including the life of Miguel de Cervantes. I included some events involving Spain’s arch-enemy, England, and left out most of Spain’s despicable activities in the New World (I would be surprised if most Spaniards were very much aware of them).
I find it quite interesting that despite vigorous censorship in Spain and England, these times produced the greatest literature of both countries. No doubt the influx of wealth from newly discovered lands and trade routes increased artistic patronage, though Cervantes himself saw little of it. I also read that censorship in Spain led to the great flowering of Christian mysticism and mystical literature in that country, an interesting counterpoint to the craze for chivalric romances.
Most of the information comes from the EBSCO Literary Reference Center (check with your library to see if you can access this online resource). Please feel free to add other interesting dates in the comments.