With our Conjectures series we launch a new laboratory for experiments with historical form and historical method. Why might such a thing be wanted? And why here on The Public Domain Review? The last thirty years has witnessed a genuine revolution in history. The digitization of vast bodies of historical source material (books, archives, images), together with new technologies of access to those sources (the internet, search engines, text tools), has transformed the way we see, feel, read, and imagine what came before the present. The Public Domain Review was born in response to this new world — a world in which the very volume of historical material and the unprecedented topographies of its availability reveal the urgent need for new platforms, new ways of curating, collating, and celebrating a magnificent, swamping, upwelling cosmos of history-stuff. So far, so good. We are proud to have become a small part of the large work of making the good things of the past present in new ways. With Conjectures we extend that project, by turning to look at some of the new kinds of history-writing that are emerging out of the mini-maelstrom of that revolution — some of the new ways artists and scholars are working in this transformed world of sources (and the transformed means of navigating and manipulating them). The essays in this section do real historical work, but they do not necessarily do that work in the ways we have come to accept as conventional. The reader is asked to keep a live eye on these texts, which thread between past and present, between the imagination and the archive, between dreams and data. — D. Graham Burnett, Series Editor

It is Disturbing to Find

Weaving extracts from a naturalist’s private journals and unpublished sci-fi tale, Elaine Ayers creates a single story of loneliness and scientific longing.more

The Primordial Gound

Kant in Sumatra? The Third Critique and the cosmologies of Melanesia? Justin E. H. Smith with an intricate tale of old texts lost and recovered,…more

The Elizabeths: Elemental Historians

Carla Nappi conjures a dreamscape from four archival fragments — four oblique references to women named “Elizabeth” who lived on the watershed of the 16th…more

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