This is a very complex question.
First, it is important to consider how many people perceive history. History is the study of past events, which often includes long-dead participants in unfamiliar locales who completed outmoded, archaic tasks. As a result, many people do not enjoy studying history, because they find it difficult to relate to something “outdated.”
Historical fiction, however, takes the outdated and creates a narrative in order to illustrate the same information. Abstract dates, places, and names are organized into a realistic story in which a humanized, sympathetic character experiences history. This allows the reader to connect with the real historical context of the story because it is more relatable.
Humans have always had a desire to tell and hear stories, because they allow us to make sense of an often confusing world. Shared histories among groups of people are fully realized in the narrative form. This helps to create cultural identity, because it allows society to work through its feelings about the past.
For instance, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is often considered the quintessential American novel. The reason for this is because Twain captured the culture and time period in which the novel is set, including accurate dialogue and regional elements, while exploring the social issues of the time, like poverty, religion, race, and so on. The unique American perspective of the novel shaped the course of American literary history and continues to impact us culturally. Allusions to the novel are still relevant in popular culture today, for example.
In these ways, historical literature helps unite people with a similar background and actually shapes culture itself.