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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Historian Arthur Schlesinger Dead at 89

NEW YORK -- Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Kennedy insider who helped define mainstream liberalism during the Cold War and remained an eminent public thinker into the 21st century, has died at the age of 89, his son said.

Schlesinger suffered a heart attack while dining out with family members Wednesday night, Stephen Schlesinger said. He was taken to New York Downtown Hospital, where he died.

Among the most famous historians of his time, Schlesinger was widely respected as learned and readable, with a panoramic vision of American culture and politics.

He received a National Book Award for "Robert Kennedy and His Times" and both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for "A Thousand Days," his memoir-chronicle of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's administration. He also won a Pulitzer, in 1946, for "The Age of Jackson," his landmark chronicle of Andrew Jackson's administration.

With his bow ties and horn-rimmed glasses, Schlesinger seemed the very image of a reserved, tweedy scholar. But he was an assured member of the so-called Eastern elite.

He was a longtime confidant of the Kennedys, a fellow Harvard man, who served in Kennedy's administration and was often criticized for idealizing the family, particularly for not mentioning the president's extramarital affairs.

"At no point in my experience did his preoccupation with women -- apart from [his daughter] Caroline crawling around the Oval Office -- interfere with his conduct of the public business," Schlesinger later wrote.

Liberalism declined in his lifetime to the point where politicians feared using the word, but Schlesinger's opinions remained liberal, and influential. For both historians and Democratic officials, he was a kind of professor emeritus, valued for his professional knowledge and for his personal past.

Schlesinger said his involvement in politics had the unfortunate effect of keeping him from writing more books. To Kennedy's amusement, Schlesinger also wrote film criticism for Vogue and other publications.

Like many liberals of the 1940s, Schlesinger tried to reconcile support for Roosevelt's New Deal economic relief programs with the start of the Cold War. He responded by condemning both the far right and the far left, any system that denied the "perpetual tension" of a dynamic democracy.

In "The Age of Jackson," he wrote: "World without conflict is the world of fantasy."