School of Politics and International Relations

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Ben Holland

Lecturer in International Relations, Faculty of Social Sciences



Before coming to Nottingham as a Lecturer in International Relations in September 2010, I studied at the University of Cambridge (MA, Social and Political Sciences) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (MSc and PhD, International Relations). At Nottingham, I was director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (2012-14), during which time I became a founding co-editor of the book series Studiesin Social and Global Justice (Rowman & Littlefield International). I was awarded the Political Studies Association's Sir Bernard Crick Prize for Outstanding Teaching in 2014. In 2017 I was elected as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society following the publication of my book The Moral Person of the State.

Expertise Summary

I am an historian of ideas, particularly of those emanating from Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and concerning the state, sovereignty, interstate politics and the relationships between politics and theology. I am interested in matters of epistemology and methodology in intellectual history.

Teaching Summary

I am part of the International Relations teaching team in the School. I usually lecture and lead seminars on the following modules:

  • Understanding Global Politics (a level 1 course introducing international relations theory and some of the core structural aspects of global politics)
  • Approaches to Politics and International Relations (a level 2 course introducing students to different approaches to explaining and understanding politics and international relations, from rational choice theory to postmodernism; I especially enjoy teaching interpretive methods)
  • Rethinking the Cold War (a level 3 module where each lecture/class investigates some aspect of the theory of international politics through the prism of some aspect of the Cold War)
  • War, Peace and Political Thought (a level 4 module on the history of international political thought)

In previous years I have taught on the courses 'Civilization and Barbarism', 'Theories and Concepts in International Relations' and 'Strategy and Security'. I also convened and taught for four years 'Global Citizenship - Global Issues', an innovative online module on some of the issues that bear on the notion of citizenship in an era of 'globalisation'. This was offered towards the Global Issues Programme diploma, an initiative of some of the Universitas 21 global group of universities.

In 2013 I was a judge on the International Relations and Politics panel for the Undergraduates Awards. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I won the Political Studies Association's Sir Bernard Crick Prize for Outstanding Teaching in 2014.

Research Summary

My main field of research is the history of political thought. Within this broad area, I am particularly concerned with the history of philosophical and scholarly reflection on the modern state,… read more

Selected Publications

I am very keen to supervise MRes and PhD students working on the history of political thought, international relations theory, or political theology.

Successful PhD students have written theses on the African Union and peacekeeping (Jude Cocodia, 2016), the genealogy of the concept of constituent power (Adam Lindsay, 2017), and the ancient Roman and Greek inheritances in the writings of Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt (Yared Akarapattananukul, 2017) I have also co-supervised a successful MRes thesis on civil-military relations in Pakistan (Filippo Boni, 2013).

Current PhD students are working on the social and political thought of Friedrich von Hayek (Aref Ebadi), the philosophical foundations of practices and policies to integrate refugees in modern Britain (Hamish Reid), and Leninism and democratic theory (Joe Pateman).

I've acted as internal examiner of PhD theses on the concept of displacement in international political thought (Jon Mansell, 2014) and a comparison of the political thought of Spinoza and Schmitt (Ignas Kalpokas, 2015).

Current Research

My main field of research is the history of political thought. Within this broad area, I am particularly concerned with the history of philosophical and scholarly reflection on the modern state, sovereignty, international relations, and the intersections between political thought and theology.

I recently concluded a large project on the idea of the state in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I investigated a particular analogy that was often drawn between the individual human person and the state during this period. Certain ideas about how human beings are constituted as free and rational agents, I have tried to show, were taken up by theorists of the state as they thought about how the state was constituted, and what responsibilities states had towards their own subjects as well as to each other. The monograph, The Moral Person of the State, was published by Cambridge University Press in July 2017.

I am currently working on what I hope will be a short book on St Augustine. Again I am interested in the analogy between person and state, although in the case of Augustine it would be more accurate to say that the analogy is between the self and the city: between, that is, the human being as body and soul, always in relation to other such beings, and the city as a society ordered by love, whether self-love in the case of the Earthly City, divided love in the Pilgrim City, or love of others and of God in the City of God.

This book I envisage as the first step of a larger project on the history of the political thought on sovereignty. I am concerned with certain analogies between the powers of the sovereign and those of God that appear so often in European philosophy from the medieval period. Again, the concept of 'person' is key here: for in the Christian tradition, to which Augustine is central, God is three persons in one substance. I want to examine how different understandings of the Trinity informed different conceptions of God's power and, by means of prevailing analogies, the powers of rulers and publics.

I am also very interested in discussions and debates about epistemology and methodology in the history of ideas, and different approaches to the history of political thought, such as conceptual history and 'metaphorology'.

School of Politics and International Relations

Law and Social Sciences building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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