Law, Politics, & Society

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Nate Holdren

Associate Professor
Office Location: Medbury 102
Fall 2023 Office Hours: Zoom by appointment

Nate Holdren is a legal historian of capitalism, with broad interests in law, class, and critical theory. His scholarship investigates questions about when law produces justice and injustice, how people who govern think about their actions, and how those ideas affect the people governed. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Minnesota, awarded in 2014. Before coming to Drake, Holdren was a Jerome Hall Fellow at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law. He has been at Drake since 2015.

Holdren published his first book, Injury Impoverished: Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era, with Cambridge University Press in 2020. Injury Impoverished was the runner up for the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti prize for best book published in US intellectual history in 2020 and won the Philip Taft Award for best book in labor history published in 2020. The book reflects Holdren’s interdisciplinary approach to studying law, combining archival research, critical theory, and class-, gender- and disability-centered analysis. It examines the creation and initial operation of workers’ compensation laws in the early twentieth century United States. It argues that reforms to U.S. employee injury law created new forms of inequality, by causing people with disabilities to lose their jobs, as well as new forms of inhumanity, by treating deeply personal suffering losses in an impersonal and economic manner.

Since finishing writing Injury Impoverished, Holdren has been writing shorter pieces in academic as well as public settings. His public writing has appeared in venues including Bill of Health, Legal Form, The Legal History Blog, Organizing Work and Time. He plans future books on the history of the law of the employment relationship, and on the history of occupational safety and health, in keeping with his longstanding research interests in the relationships between law, capitalism, and class.

Holdren has been nominated for both teacher and mentor of the year at Drake. He has taught courses at Drake on topics including broad introductions to Law, Politics and Society, socio-legal perspectives on U.S. constitutionalism, law and employment, the role of law in the exclusion of social minorities, law and slavery, and markets in morally charged things. His teaching emphasizes discussion, intellectual community, and writing to think. He attempts to make his courses intellectually but not emotionally demanding for students, combining heady ideas with a welcoming, supportive, and collegial atmosphere. He particularly enjoys working with first generation college students, having been first gen himself. Holdren also co-facilitates a writing group for Drake faculty. Over all, he tries to pursue both teaching and scholarship in a way that centers on building relationships of shared curiosity and intellectual excitement.

Outside of his academic life, Holdren enjoys music and spending time with his family.

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