Arthur Schlesinger died yesterday at the age of 89. Commentary’s Contentions blog has posted Norman Podhoretz’s brief statement “On Arthur Schlesinger.” Podhoretz bluntly states: “He was an exceptionally bad historian.” It is a judgment that is elegantly borne out, for example, in Coolidge and the Historians by the late Thomas Silver. Schlesinger’s Age of Roosevelt was Exhibit A in the rogue’s gallery of progressive histories whose misstatements were the subject of Tom’s critical eye in the book.
Schlesinger was always an extraordinarily partisan historian. He adopted the mantle of the court historian in his chronicle of the Kennedy administration and seems never to have shed it. At its home page, Commentary has opened its archives to post articles and reviews that bear on Podhoretz’s assessment of Schlesinger. Foremost among them are the late Kenneth Lynn’s “The Schlesinger thesis” and Midge Decter’s “Kennedyism again.” For a contrasting assessment, see Sean Wilentz’s “The vital centrist,” an essay/review of Schlesinger’s 2000 autobiography that Robert Kagan reviewed for Commentary.
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