Law, Politics, & Society

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Nate Holdren

Associate Professor
Office Location: Medbury 102
Fall 2022 Office Hours: Zoom by appointment


Nate Holdren received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Minnesota in 2014. Before coming to Drake, he was a Jerome Hall Fellow at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law. 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. Professor Holdren’s teaching places a heavy emphasis on discussion, intellectual community, and writing to think. He has taught repeatedly in the First Year Seminar program and especially 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.

As a scholar, Professor Holdren is broadly interested in legal history, critical theory, and the relationships between law, class, and capitalism. His work 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 published his first book, entitled Injury Impoverished: Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era, with Cambridge University Press in 2020. The book was 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 examines the creation and early operation of workers’ compensation laws in the early twentieth century United States. Injury Impoverished reflects Holdren’s interdisciplinary approach to the law, combining archival research, critical theory, and gender- and disability-analysis. The book argues that early twentieth century 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.

After finishing the writing on Injury Impoverished, he has been writing shorter pieces and slowly moving toward a second book, in line with his longstanding research interests in law and critical theory and in the history of law, capitalism, and class. Tied to his interest in writing instruction and supporting faculty writers, after completing Injury Impoverished he wrote a series of essays on his writing life while working on the book. These appeared at the Legal History Blog:

 Outside of his academic life, he enjoys spending time with his family, exercise, gardening, music, and reading creative nonfiction.









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