Legacy by James Michener takes as its hook a specific historical event, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North in 1987. This was part of what was known as the Iran-Contra scandal, a series of operations conducted under President Reagan involving secretly and illegally selling weapons to Iran, despite an arms embargo, as part of a deal to free hostages. The money gained from these illegal activities was then used to fund the Contras, a terrorist organization in Nicaragua supported by Reagan, which was trying to re-establish a dictatorship that had been overthrown by the Sandanistas, a socialist party that was running a relatively humane and stable government.
The protagonist of Michener's novel, Major Norman Starr, like Oliver North, is portrayed as about to appear before Congress. Rather than turn into a pure roman à clef, instead, this turns into an historical novel, with flashbacks to other members of Starr's family who also served in the military, beginning with Jared Starr, who served in the Revolutionary War under Alexander Hamilton. Thus, although the main setting of the story is the late 1980s, it covers the whole span of United States history through flashbacks.
The novel Legacy is set during the 1980's. It is set during the Iran-Contra Affairs. Major Norman Starr is called to testify in front of congress. He must testify in front of a congressional about his involvement in covert military actions. There are flashbacks in the novel that allows Major Starr to think back about his ancestors and their part in American history. Major Norman Starr pondered on the history of his family, going back 5-6 generations in his family's history.