Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., 89, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who wrote about the evolution of the American democratic tradition, served in the Kennedy White House as a “court philosopher” and was among the foremost public intellectuals of his era, died Feb. 28 at New York Downtown Hospital after a heart attack.
Schlesinger rose to prominence at 28 when his book “The Age of Jackson,” about the democratization of U.S. politics under President Andrew Jackson in the early 19th century, won the 1946 Pulitzer for history. Twenty years later, his book “A Thousand Days,” an account of his role as special assistant to President John F. Kennedy, won the Pulitzer in the category of biography or autobiography.
In the 1950s, Schlesinger also wrote three volumes about President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, the Depression-era political and economic doctrine. Published as “The Age of Roosevelt,” the books were considered valuable accounts of a tumultuous period.
Sean Wilentz, a history professor and former director of American studies at Princeton University, said of Schlesinger: “He was certainly one of the outstanding American historians of his generation. He set the terms for understanding not just one or two but three eras of American history—Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. It’s enough for most historians to write one book and get recognition for it.”