Jacob M. Baum
Office: 53 Holden Hall
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
My research focuses on the intersections of ideas, culture, and daily life in later medieval and early modern Europe, with particular focus on the German-speaking world. My first book, Reformation of the Senses(2018), traces the history of the religious change in the Holy Roman Empire (the pre-modern political entity that roughly corresponds to modern Germany) from the perspective of the five senses, challenging centuries old mythologies about supposedly essential differences between late medieval and early Protestant forms of Christianity. It demonstrates that, even as early Protestants promoted the idea that their religion was somehow less sensuous than that of their late medieval ancestors, they retained and in some cases even amplified various aspects of traditional religion's appeal to the senses. Further, this study shows that this paradoxical Protestant assertion of a radical break in the midst of obvious continuities in religious belief and practice was a reflection of longstanding and unresolved tensions between official religious culture, natural philosophical understandings of how the human body and senses worked, and the quotidian challenges communities confronted when attempting to put religion into practice. I have also published several essays relating to this research previously, including the 2013 article “From Incense to Idolatry: The Reformation of Olfaction in Late Medieval German Ritual,” which was awarded the Hans Rosenberg Article Prize by the Central European History Society in 2015.
I am currently at work co-editing (with Marlene Eberhart, Vanier College) a interdisciplinary collection of essays in early modern sensory studies, tentatively titled Embodiment, Expertise and Ethics in Early Modern Europe: Entangling the Senses. The volume offers a reappraisal of the last generation of scholarship on early modern sensory studies, de-centering more traditional intellectual-historical approaches to the epoch and instead arguing that sensory knowledge must be grasped as product of the diverse, practical and oftentimes overlapping and entangled problems early modern people confronted in their daily lives. The book is under contract with Routledge, and will be published in the series “Studies in Renaissance and Early Modern Worlds”.
Most recently, my work in sensory history as led me into the growing field of disability history and disability studies. I am currently at work on two essay-length projects on sensory impairment in fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe, as well as a translation and edition of the personal chronicle of Sebastian Fischer (1513-?), a deaf shoemaker from the city of Ulm. Beyond these projects, I am in the very early stages of developing a longer book-length study of the impact of the Thirty Years' War on attitudes towards physical impairment and disability.
At Texas Tech, I teach undergraduate courses in European history that reflect and build on my research interests, including HIST 3329 (Development of Modern Science), HIST 3346 (Age of Chivalry), HIST 3350 (Early Modern Europe), HIST 3358 (Origins of Modern Germany, 1517-1871), HIST 4349 (Protestant Reformation), HIST 4352 (Witchcraft & Witch Hunting), HIST 4346 (A History of Food in Europe). I am also developing new undergraduate courses on the history of the Thirty Years' War, the history of pre-modern medicine, and disability history. At the graduate level I regularly teach courses in research methodology, as well as topical courses in late medieval and early modern Europe (ca. 1400-1700). I welcome the opportunity to work with students interested in pursuing an MA in topics within this chronological and geographical framework, especially those with interest in the histories of ideas, culture, and daily life.
Additional information and an up-to-date CV may be found at on academia.edu.