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The Imperial Historian


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The first major biography of pre-eminent historian and intellectual Arthur Schlesinger Jr, a defining figure in John F. Kennedy’s White House.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr (1917–2007), known today as the architect of John F. Kennedy’s presidential legacy—and the myth of Camelot—blazed an extraordinary path from Harvard University to war-time 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, remains influential and has cemented Schlesinger’s place as one of the nation’s greatest political image-makers.

In this vivid account, Richard Aldous draws on oral history, rarely seen archival documents and the official Schlesinger papers to craft a portrait of a brilliant and controversial historian who framed America’s rise to global empirialism.


“The triumph of Richard Aldous’s new book is that it separates the myth from the reality, explaining both the seemingly inexorable rise of Schlesinger and how he contributed so much to the subsequent mythologising of the Kennedy era.” — The Irish Times

“The extent to which Schlesinger's father pulled strings for his son is one of the most intriguing revelations of Richard Aldous's new book. I generally find biographies of biographers by biographers a bore, but this is an exception.” — Niall Ferguson, The Sunday Times

“What makes Aldous’s book of more than incidental interest during the Trump years... is the perspective it provides on the current travails of American liberalism.” — London Review of Books

“... Richard Aldous's absorbing biography will surely be the definitive account of the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. While clearly admiring of his subject, Aldous is thoughtful and insightful, and at times critical.” — Times Literary Supplement

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