In order to pull this off, getting it right is important. This means that a good deal of research is necessary in order to identify the time frame; countries involved if it's during a war, leaders of those countries, historical facts that took place to change history.
For instance: A novel that took place during World War II. What historical battles took place involving America VS the enemy? How crucial was it that we won those battles? This can be accomplished say in a romantic novel when the main characters are either reading a paper, listening to the news on the radio, or over hearing riders on a bus or subway or airplane discussing the war.
If you don't put in the work, you'll sound like a jerk. Sorry about the poetry. However, take for instance the reporter in Florida who was discussing past presidents and made mention to the fact that Truman defeated Roosevelt in an election. ARGHHH You can't imagine how many calls that news station received--enough to crash their phone system.
Placing historical events in your novel, no matter what genre, you'll sound like a seasoned author if you do your research and get it right.