The Global Perspective

Christian Science Plaza

At the Christian Science Plaza in the Back Bay stands a concrete skyscraper of such nobilty of design it enhances the domed basilica of a hundred years ago.

This focus is particular to what the editor of a university press series on great cities has called “Centers of Civilization.” Consider, for instance, the way Papal Rome trumps, historically, that city’s role as capital of Italy. Similarly, the fact that Boston is a regional capital is much less significant, in the perspective Shand-Tucci’s work employs, than the fact that since the post-Civil War period, Boston has been one of three national capitals.

Washington is first, having achieved, after the Civil War, its full stature as the country’s political capital. Around the same time New York emerged as the nation’s  financial and media capital. And at the same time Boston, "Cradle of Liberty" and "American Athens", consolidated its role as America’s intellectual capital. (This trinity has varied in the twentieth century only insofar as Los Angeles has become the pre-eminent entertainment capital).

In fact, by the early twentieth century the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead would relate Boston’s role to that of the entire western world, declaring that “insofar as the world of learning possesses a capital city, Boston, with its neighboring institutions, approximates the position that Paris held in the Middle Ages.”

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