Thursday, March 1, 2007

Arthur Schlesinger has died

Historian Arthur Schlesinger died last night in New York at the age of 89. His many books include his portrait of Kennedy's presidency, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1966.

The New York Times tells the story today of how the historian came to work for the Kennedy administration:

On Jan. 9, 1961, a gray, chilly, afternoon, President-elect Kennedy dropped by Mr. Schlesinger’s house on Irving Street in Cambridge. He asked the professor to be a special assistant in the White House. Mr. Schlesinger answered, “If you think I can help, I would like to come.”

In “Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye,” (1970) Kenneth P. O’Donnell and David F. Powers suggest that the new president saw some political risk in hiring such an unabashed liberal. He decided to keep the appointment quiet until another liberal, Chester Bowles, was confirmed as under secretary of state.

The authors, both Kennedy aides, said they asked Mr. Kennedy if he took Mr. Schlesinger on to write the official history of the administration. Mr. Kennedy said he would write it himself.

“But Arthur will probably write his own,” the president said, “and it will be better for us if he’s in the White House, seeing what goes on, instead of reading about it in The New York Times and Time magazine.”

A list of his publications, compiled by the New York Review of Books, is here.

Update: Historians weigh in on Schlesinger and his legacy on History News Network, here.

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