When a writer succeeds in infusing yesterday’s events with an immediacy that makes those events important and instructive to his readers today, then readers experience what went before in such a way that they can see not only where they were, but also where they are now and where they are going in the future.
Given that ‘historical’ (facts) seems to clash with ‘fiction’ (make believe), it is obligatory to research the history of the story so that the writer has a command of the world in which the story lives. Only through understanding and tracing the effects and implications these true events have on made-up characters can those events ‘come alive’. When a character does and says things that resonate so personally that they drop your reader right into the shoes of those characters, readers live through what the characters do, feel and say. That reader is entertained, has been moved and has also learned something all at once.