Great questions. Things to think about. Having commited "faux"history (i.e. had the temerity to use history in fiction) myself, a lot of this is relevant directly - and so is this quote:
"No one owns history, no one owns the truth.
Even though people would like to. As any dictator will tell you, whoever owns the past controls the present. It’s why fundamentalists want to seal it off.
Do you have to be a Muslim to write about Muslims? Do you have to come from the seventh century to write about it?
No, you just have to do your research. Sherry Jones clearly has. While some have said the novel is too contrived, others say she relied too heavily on historic Islamic sources. Too much license, not enough; sigh. As an historical novelist, you really can’t please all the people all the time."
So much that we think we "know" comes from ingesting things other people are ever so firmly convinced of - whether or not they are right. And I don't see a way around that - we cant ALL be, or learn from, absolutely PRIMARY sources and every source in between us and that primary is a lens that focuses through a prism of its own prejudices, errors, and wishful thinking, not to go out on a limb and say sometimes outright and deliberate lies that will advance a cause or raise a flag over a barricade. You have to figure out whom to trust, and how much to trust them. This is not always easy. It is sometimes not even possible.
I think that in a lot of ways it is FICTION that is a way out of this trap - because you can tell a story about the story you want to tell, and you aren't presenting it as absolute unvarnished truth - and it gives you a glimmer of opportunity to be freer with presenting what you see as your "facts" because nobody is being asked to read your novel as absolute history and accept it verbatim as a the full and complete gospel truth.
What do you think? Feel free to discuss.