JL Wall has a sharp post up on historical truth vs. historical narrative:
That history — the telling and examining of the past — is narrative, and narrative is unavoidably constructed, does not mean that we’re living in some sort of afactual postmodernism gone awry; “the past” as a series of events and facts does exist, and exists independently of these narratives in a true form. The problem is our ability to approach that form.
I can only add that writing about history – even at an undergraduate level – really drives home the point that narrative construction plays an important role in shaping our perception of the past. I am not a deoconstructionist, and I can appreciate the importance of a compelling narrative study. It is important to remember, however, that our reliance on historical narrative is almost purely instrumental. We make connections and create stories to highlight important causal factors and make events intelligible to the public. The facts of the matter exist independently of this approach. In practical terms, I think this means that we should be more willing to reassess our assumptions when new evidence comes to light.