Then there is the issue of honesty. Honesty of sources, messengers, recorders and interpreters all. People like to rationalize their sins, their errors and their follies. Sometimes they even avidly design to perjure themselves in their cause. And beyond ego, there is commitment to things beyond one's self which can also motivate the sacrifice of frank truth to what is measured to be a greater good. And of course one can neither lie nor tell the truth unless he really understands what he has supposedly done or witnessed, rather than what he just thinks he has.
And for history to be more than a soulless recital of cold details, one must apply the human heart to give it meaning to human beings. In that not all persons in all times agree what is true and false, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, this limits the historian's ability to weave a meaningful story from facts that can speak to all people. And when political need makes a received belief, however false, a sacred one, and its detractors seditious agitators rather than honest scholars, trying to uncover and spread the truth can be not only unrewarding, but potentially fatal. That, perhaps, rather than any fraud, is why a document like Procopius' Secret History exists.
If scholarly history - the examination and digestion of primary sources by professionals to create secondary works - is an imperfect and even controversial enterprise, then surely the simplified standard mass history disseminated by a regimented political order is even more open to question. In this, the recent books by James W. Loewen, previously professor of sociology at the University of Vermont, are illuminating. These are Lies My Teacher Told Me and the sequel dealing with historic sites titled Lies Across America. History can be a powerful tool of social and political control. If one can keep people ignorant or even deceived, the use of force is not even necessary.
What is the justification for history? Some people enjoy history as a fine art, a fascinating story all the more exciting because not only could it have happened, but at least some of it probably did. Others see history as the vindication of martyrs who could not survive to see their memories purged of shame, and villains who at last are punished in a way they escaped in life. But history can be of genuine practical utility as well, because it helps explain what people are, what they are likely to do and why they are wont to do it. Perhaps in a fast-changing world it is folly to try to apply yesterday's solutions to today's problems. But if history does not quite repeat itself as some claim, surely it very often rhymes!