or nearly half a century, Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr., has held a unique place among American historians. As a scholar he has been versatile and prolific, the author of foundational works on Jacksonian America, Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, and John and Robert Kennedy. He is without peer as a narrative stylist, and his books have found a large audience while meeting the highest academic standards. Yet Schlesinger has always been controversial, for his scholarship seeks overtly, even ostentatiously, to serve political ends. He has dedicated himself to an instrumentalist approach to history, to the uncovering of useful lessons for the present from the study of the past. He believes that history can inform policy making and that it is the civic duty of the historian to make sure that it does, even to the point of becoming a policy maker himself. “If intellectuals decided to abandon government to non-intellectuals, ” he has said, “they would have only themselves to blame for the result.” He has also said that political liberals, of which he is one, come in two kinds. “On the one hand are the politicians, the administrators, the doers; on the other, the sentimentalists, the utopians, the wailers.” Schlesinger himself has always aimed to be a doer. 1.
Accordingly he has lived in the public eye, writing for publications from Partisan Review and the New Republic to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Esquire, Vogue, Parade, and Family Weekly. He has served two full generations as a kind of public preceptor and all-around cultural commentator, speaking as the nation's wise counsel and even as its conscience. He knows the ways of power and celebrity firsthand: he has reviewed books and movies, counseled a president, graced the cover of Time,____________________