Eric M. Nelson
Born (1977-08-13) August 13, 1977 (age 43)
TitleRobert M. Beren Professor of Government
Academic background
Alma materHarvard University (AB)
Trinity College, Cambridge (MPhil, PhD)
Thesis'The Greek Tradition in Early-Modern Republican Thought' (2002)
Doctoral advisorQuentin Skinner
Academic work
DisciplinePolitical philosophy, government
Sub-disciplineThomas Hobbes, American Revolution, English Revolution, Judaism and politics, republicanism, Age of Enlightenment, Hebrew republic [1]

Eric Matthew Nelson (born August 13, 1977) is an American historian and Professor of Government at Harvard University.


Eric Nelson was born in 1977 and grew up in New York City. According to Harvard Magazine, he went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art every week as a child.[2]

Nelson attended Harvard College, where he was inducted to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior and graduated summa cum laude.[1] His thesis, entitled The Reluctant Humanist: Thomas Hobbes and the Classical Historians won the Hoopes Prize, an award given for exceptional undergraduate theses.[3] While at Harvard, he was a regular columnist for The Harvard Crimson,[4] where he often wrote about the parallels between history and modern day.

After graduating from Harvard, he attended graduate school in the United Kingdom as a Marshall Scholar.[3] Nelson earned an M.Phil. from Trinity College at the University of Cambridge in 2000, where he wrote a thesis on the Greek influence on English Republicanism. Two years later, he earned his Ph.D. from the same college at Cambridge.

Nelson is Jewish,[5] and his grandparents were Holocaust survivors. He served as the Director of the Harvard Center for Jewish Studies from 2012 through 2015. He reads seven languages—English, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, Italian, and German—and speaks four of them.[3][2]


After earning his Ph.D., Nelson taught for another year at Cambridge before returning to Harvard as a Junior Fellow in 2004. By 2009, he was named the Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professor of Government, and was granted tenure just one year later at the age of 32.[3] In 2014, he was named the Robert M. Beren Professor of Government. He has also been awarded fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.[6]

He has published four books since returning to Harvard and is working on a fifth that will explore theology and contemporary liberal philosophy.[7]

Nelson has taught classes at Harvard that cover topics including Thomas Hobbes, the American Revolution, the English Revolution, Jewish political tradition, monarchy, republicanism, and the Enlightenment.

According to Diana Muir, Nelson is "one of a group of scholars engaged in the enterprise of re-evaluating the origins of modern political theory".[8] According to Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, Nelson's Hebrew Republic "demonstrates unforgettably that we need to understand piety to comprehend politics."[9]

Nelson, along with Harry Lewis, Margo Seltzer, and Richard Thomas, wrote an op-ed expressing their opposition to Harvard's proposed policy to ban members of final clubs and other officially unrecognized social clubs from holding captaincies or receiving endorsements for top fellowships.[10]



  1. ^ a b "Eric M. Nelson : CV" (PDF). Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Eric Nelson". 16 December 2011. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d "Eric Nelson Granted Tenure in Government Dept. - News - The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Eric M. Nelson - Writer Profile - The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  5. ^ "How Jewish Is `Too Jewish'? - Opinion - The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Eric Nelson". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Eric Nelson". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features » The Dangerous Mr. Nelson". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Modern Times". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  10. ^ "No Values Tests - Opinion - The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  11. ^ "Search Results - Harvard University Press". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-21. Retrieved 2013-08-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Luban, Daniel (2020). "Among the Post-Liberals". Dissent. 67 (1): 162–170. doi:10.1353/dss.2020.0011. ISSN 1946-0910.
  14. ^ Moyn, Samuel (30 October 2019). "Rawls & Theodicy". Commonweal Magazine. Retrieved 23 April 2020.