Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian
by Richard Aldous
W W Norton & Company
Release Date: October 10, 2017
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Very few historians achieve (or even seek) lasting fame. But even reluctant students of history will recognize the name of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Schlesinger is probably best-known for his 1965 history-cum-memoir, A Thousand Days: JFK in the White House which is a colorful and insightful but highly sympathetic account of “Camelot” (see my review here.) But he earned his first Pulitzer at the age of just 28 for his book The Age of Jackson (which I have also read and reviewed).
Long-known for his strong progressive bent, Schlesinger’s political perspective infused his biographies. And if his coverage of Franklin Roosevelt and JFK seemed to many a reflection of his liberal tendencies, his 1978 biography Robert Kennedy and His Times left no doubt at his gift in crafting hagiography. By all accounts, Richard Aldous has written a meritorious biography of the master biographer. Irrespective of my view of Schlesinger’s politics or his biographies, Aldous’s biography of Schlesinger’s life is absolutely one I am going to read!
Third-party reviews and links:
- The Washington Post (Jeff Shesol) review dated Oct 13, 2017
- The New York Times (Michael Kazin) review dated Nov 2, 2017
- The Wall Street Journal (Joseph Epstein) review dated Oct 20, 2017
- National Review (Michael Beran) review dated Nov 13, 2017
- The Nation (David Marcus) review dated Oct 12, 2017
- The Irish Times (Patrick Geoghegan) review dated Nov 18, 2017
- Kirkus review dated June 14, 2017
- Author’s Twitter feed
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From the publisher:
“The first major biography of preeminent historian and intellectual Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a defining figure in Kennedy’s White House.
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1917–2007), known today as the architect of John F. Kennedy’s presidential legacy, blazed an extraordinary path from Harvard University to wartime London to the West Wing. The son of a pioneering historian—and a two-time Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner in his own right—Schlesinger redefined the art of presidential biography. A Thousand Days, his best-selling and immensely influential record of the Kennedy administration, cemented Schlesinger’s place as one of the nation’s greatest political image makers and a key figure of the American intellectual elite—a peer and contemporary of Reinhold Niebuhr, Isaiah Berlin, and Adlai Stevenson.
The first major biography of this defining figure in Kennedy’s Camelot, Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian presents a dramatic life and career set against the backdrop of the American Century. Biographer Richard Aldous draws on oral history, rarely seen archival documents, and the official Schlesinger papers to craft a portrait of the incandescently brilliant and controversial historian who framed America’s ascent to global empire.”