....So how are we to decide which account is the truth of the matter?
Except to strongly suggest the answer, that none of them are the truth, it is difficult to see the point or purpose of your posting..
....Shouldn’t it rather be the experts who decide these things? So why don't they? I know that history is not like casting out nines in arithmetic, but to say that we can know the past without knowing the truth strikes me as being logically impossible....
Does that then mean to suppose that it is logically possible to know a truth?
First things first: how would you hope to convince me of that?
I do not expect history to be science.
Does that mean to say that science provides a sense of certainty, or more of one?
I am not so sure that it does.
I would rather say that science is history, always and inevitably out of date, and the experience (i.e. the history) of other people is usually less certain than our own, at least to ourselves.
...they all take the same body of facts and then ...
Surely not. They each have a different point of view. Our experiences differ, and because of that a discussion such as this may benefit while interpretational differences preclude the possibility.
I am not looking for appreciation; I’m looking for the truth.
But if you already know what you are looking for, why bother to look for it?
Or if you don't know what you are looking for, how are you going to know when you have found it?
....Because getting history right is a hell of a lot more important than getting King Lear or Jabberwocky right.
While I prefer to study fact, alleged facts already being being fictional enough for me, thank you very much, a writer may rather tell you that fiction provides a better way to tell the truth.
It is all history now, but while at school history was not a subject to enthuse me so much because it did not appear to be so important.
I am much more interested now because of the eventual realisation of the challenge that history presents, not so much in terms of knowing of a truth, but rather in terms of the impossibility
of knowing what it was like not
to know of experiences which we now take for granted, with scarcely a second thought about it. I sense today for instance that it is impossible for younger people to know what it was like to grow up, as I did, in a World where the Internet was not yet a distant dream, not to mention pocket calculators and ordinary access to facilities such as television.