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Stephen Schlesinger

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Stephen C. Schlesinger (born August 17, 1942) is an American historian, political commentator, and international affairs specialist. He is a Fellow at the Century Foundation in New York City. He served as director of the World Policy Institute at the New School University from 1997 to 2006. He was foreign policy advisor to New York State Governor Mario Cuomo during his three terms in office.

Early career (1968–72)


Schlesinger began as a freelance writer investigating the 1967 Algiers Motel murders in Detroit and covering the 1968 Czechoslovakia uprisings against the Soviet occupation. Later he served as special assistant to Edward Logue at the New York State Urban Development Corporation from 1968 to 1969. The next year, he began publishing, with some other former devotees of Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene J. McCarthy, The New Democrat, a monthly magazine dedicated to uniting "the left and radical wings"[1] and replacing the "dead leadership" in the Democratic Party. The magazine was critical of Democratic National Committee chairman Larry O'Brien, and promoted the candidacy of South Dakota Senator George McGovern rather than of Maine Senator Ed Muskie and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey during the 1972 Democratic presidential primaries.[2]



Schlesinger's book, Bitter Fruit (1982), co-authored with Stephen Kinzer, about the 1954 US coup in Guatemala, garnered remarkable attention. Jim Miller in Newsweek wrote that "Schlesinger's and Kinzer's meticulously documented history reads like a cloak-and-dagger thriller..." Warren Hoge in The Sunday New York Times Book Review termed it "a tale of dirty tricks, the manipulation of public opinion, the smearing of the precious few journalists who managed to sense what was really going on and of foreign policy that borrowed more from Doonesbury than diplomacy". Antony Blinken, writing in "The Harvard Crimson", stated that "Bitter Fruit" is "an invaluable historical narrative" in which "the arrogance, callousness and stupidity of our countrymen is hard to swallow." Later Blinken, US Secretary of State during the Biden administration, explained to Schlesinger that the book caused President Clinton to apologize to the people of Guatemala for prior US security incursions in their country. "The Sunday New York Times Book Review" named it a "notable book of the year." The book is considered a classic study of American interventionism abroad and has sold more than 100,000 copies.

His subsequent book about the UN's founding, Act of Creation (2003), an account of the 1945 San Francisco conference that drafted the UN Charter, received many accolades. Robert Caro termed it "an immensely valuable contribution to our understanding of one of the most pivotal events of the twentieth century..." The American Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, writing in The Sunday New York Times Book Review, observed: "A superb book that reconstructs this drama with great lucidity and illuminates its contemporary relevance." The former NY Times UN correspondent, Barbara Crossette, in the Nation Magazine termed the book "the classic history of the founding of the UN". It won the 2004 Harry S. Truman Book Award.

In 2007, with his brother, Andrew, he edited his father's Journals 1952-2000 Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (2007) which covers Schlesinger's life through the second half of the twentieth century. The diaries became a best seller. In a front-page review in the Sunday New York Times Book Review, Maureen Dowd wrote Schlesinger was "unleashed" in his diaries and said that "It's hard not to like a book that expounds on Marilyn Monroe on one page and the Monroe Doctrine on the next." Janet Maslin in the daily New York Times observed: "This arch, irresistibly revealing book manages to be both show-stopping and door-stopping, what with its vast range of subject matter and unfettered private sniping... [T]his book creates a moving and monumental 48-year chronicle." Jonathan Alter in Newsweek remarked that the book "contains juicy morsels on every one of its 858 pages." In Salon.com, Sidney Blumenthal noted that "If the American century were cast as a Broadway show, this would be the playbill."

Subsequently, Schlesinger co-edited with his brother The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (2013). The book earned broad critical praise. Ted Widmer in The Daily Beast proclaimed: "To re-enter the world of his correspondence is like a form of time travel, giving the reader access to the same vertiginous ride he was on, following the presidency and the course of American liberalism from its high-water mark under FDR, through its many peaks and valleys since then." The Literary Editor of The Chicago Tribune, Elizabeth Taylor, commented: "Nostalgia isn't the only reason to read these letters. Another is to be immersed in a world where someone cares deeply about ideas and people."


  • Why England Slept by John F. Kennedy (new edition, Praeger 2016, with introduction by Stephen Schlesinger)
  • The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (Random House 2013, co-editor)
  • Journals 1952-2000 Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (Penguin Press 2007, co-editor)
  • Act of Creation: The Founding of The United Nations (Westview Press 2003)
  • Bitter Fruit: The Story of the U.S. Coup in Guatemala (Doubleday 1982, with Stephen Kinzer)
  • The New Reformers (Houghton Mifflen 1975)


  1. ^ "Liberal Monthly is Started Here; Unity of Leftist and Radical Democrats is Goal", New York Times, p. 92, April 26, 1970
  2. ^ He later worked as a speechwriter for Senator George McGovern during his 1972 presidential campaign. "Liberal Voice", Time Magazine, May 15, 1972, archived from the original on October 22, 2010