Some time ago In my online travels, I came across “Delancey Place,” a marvelous site that gives new meaning to the word “eclectic.” Delancey Place describes its mission as follows: is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, primarily historical in focus, and will occasionally be controversial. Finally, we hope that the selections will resonate beyond the subject of the book from which they were excerpted. Sign up and join 290,000+ other subscribers who receive every weekday morning.

The real “Delancey Place,” by the way, seems to be an extremely short street, or perhaps more accurately a mews, in downtown Philadelphia.  Be that as it may, the editor, Richard Vague (whom I have never met or corresponded with, more’s the pity), is clearly animated by broad and nuanced humanist values of the highest order.  Here’s how he put it, in part, in a “Letter to his Readers:”

I rejoice in America; nevertheless, it helps me when I learn that the War of 1812 was fought in part because of American speculators’ desire for land, or that the Spanish American War was fought in part because of certain politicians’ needs for a new cause to distract the electorate from recent domestic woes. It helps because there is similar complexity in decisions about wars today that are hidden under the simplified narratives put forward by politicians and the media. It is instructive to learn that many myths the media created in the first 24 hours after the Columbine tragedy still persist today, though long since disproven. Most things written about the Scopes Monkey trial portray it as the dawn of a new age of scientific education, but every action brings a counter-reaction, so it may be more instructive to learn that the trial was a powerful impetus for launching the Christian fundamentalist movement we know today. And World War I – itself the cause of World War II – makes much more sense when we read that a method for synthetically manufacturing gunpowder was discovered in 1909. The scarcity of gunpowder constrained the size of wars prior to 1909, so absent that discovery, it would have likely been simply another in a long string of confusing European wars in which far fewer people died.

Below I reproduce today’s selection in full.  I sincerely hope Mr. Vague (and Mervyn King) will view this as “fair use.”  I republish this selection not to introduce any of you to Delancey Place, although that would be in my view a beneficent offshoot, but to put the New York/London, US/UK axis which is so intently preoccupying so many firms these days, in century-old context. Financial centers (“centres?”) can shift and they have.

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