Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Injury Impoverished
Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era

$29.99 (F)

Award Winner

Part of Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society

  • Date Published: October 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108448666

$ 29.99 (F)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact [email protected] providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • The late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century US economy maimed and killed employees at an astronomically high rate, while the legal system left the injured and their loved ones with little recourse. In the 1910s, US states enacted workers' compensation laws, which required employers to pay a portion of the financial costs of workplace injuries. Nate Holdren uses a range of archival materials, interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives, and compelling narration to criticize the shortcomings of these laws. While compensation laws were a limited improvement for employees in economic terms, Holdren argues that these laws created new forms of inequality, causing people with disabilities to lose their jobs, while also resulting in new forms of inhumanity. Ultimately, this study raises questions about law and class and about when and whether our economy and our legal system produce justice or injustice.

    • Approaches Gilded Age compensation laws from a critical perspective
    • Shows how gender, disability, and class intersect in the issue of workplace injury
    • Offers tools and concepts to analyze the complexity of justice and injustice
    Read more


    • Honorable Mention, 2021 Merle Curti Intellectual History Award, Organization of American Historians

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Charting the shift from the tyranny of the trial to the tyranny of the (actuarial) table, Nate Holdren illuminates the biopolitics behind workers' compensation. Deeply humane, Injury Impoverished joins theory to storytelling to place the history of disability into conversation with the history of capitalism, rejecting the commodification of life.' Eileen Boris, author of Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919-2019

    'Impoverished Injury masterfully melds acute historical analysis with insightful social theory to tell a compelling tale about the legal commodification of labor, the moral thinning of injury law, and the horrific ordeal of everyday Americans coping with workplace injuries.' Ajay K. Mehrotra, American Bar Foundation & Northwestern University

    'Holdren's demonstration of how the law of accidents and the growth of capitalism abstracted away from the lived realities of workplace injuries is brilliantly argued, and a gripping, at times haunting, reading. A history of moral imagination, it is a work of moral imagination itself.' Jonathan Levy, author of Ages of American Capitalism

    'Meticulous and gripping in equal parts, Injury Impoverished offers a compelling and beautifully written history of the emergence of workers' compensation law in the United States. More than that, however, this book delivers a flash of lightning that illuminates the precise legal contours of the terrifying machine that dismembered and reprocessed the American working class during the first decades of the twentieth century. Essential reading for every cog in the machine.' Rose Sydney Parfitt, Kent Law School, and author of The Process of International Legal Reproduction: Inequality, Historiography, Resistance

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108448666
    • length: 310 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: injuries and abstractions
    Part I. The Eclipse of Recognition and The Rise of The Tyranny of The Table:
    1. Commodification and recognition within the tyranny of the trial
    2. Injury impoverished
    3. Suffering and the price of life and limb
    Interlude: trampler and tramped-on in the Cherry Mine fire
    Part II. New Machineries of Injustice:
    4. The disabling power of law and market
    5. Insuring injustice
    6. Discrimination technicians and human weeding
    Conclusion: resistance and aftermath
    Coda: narrative, machinery, law.

  • Author

    Nate Holdren, Drake University, Iowa
    Nate Holdren is Assistant Professor in Law, Politics and Society at Drake University, Iowa.


    • Honorable Mention, 2021 Merle Curti Intellectual History Award, Organization of American Historians
    • Winner, 2021 Philip Taft Labor History Book Award, ILR School at Cornell University and the Labor and Working-Class History Association

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email [email protected]

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.