Dr Patrick Holden, Associate Professor in the School of Law, Criminology and Government, is a renowned expert in the field of International Relations. He is the Programme Leader of the Masters in International Relations and leader of the Global Instability and Justice Research Group at the University. For the past 15 years, Dr Holden has taught and conducted research at the University on topics including international political economy, the European Union in the world, international development policy, global governance and regional integration.
In the following interview, he talks about some of the factors that drew him to the subject and how it helps to reveal the world in a new light.
How did you get into International Relations?
Well, International Relations/IR is a combination of practical concerns – war and peace/trade relations – and deeper intellectual questions. I’d read deeply in politics, history and philosophy and I wanted to apply these insights and ideas to international problems. I went to University College Dublin in the early 1990s when countries I’d studied at school like the Soviet Union had recently disappeared from the map to my great surprise. I wanted to understand how these changes came about and what other changes might come in the future.
After university I worked and travelled in Europe; I taught English to business people in Spain and later worked in the insurance business in Dublin. Based on this, I became interested in the deep patterns of power based on technology and economics – what we call globalisation – in the world. I got a scholarship to do a PhD on the European Union’s relations with the Middle East at the University of Limerick and was also fortunate enough to get a scholarship to study for a year at Cambridge University. The PhD was tough but I had some great experiences working as an intern with a human rights NGO in Brussels and doing fieldwork in Morocco. After Cambridge, Plymouth offered me a job and I joined in 2005.
What are your main areas of work here, both in terms of teaching and research?
I teach a range of modules here at Plymouth, including two undergraduate modules on the European Union (for the Politics and International Relations degrees) and a postgraduate module on International Trade Politics, which became very topical due to the rise of trade wars and Brexit in recent years. I also run an ‘experience’ module that involves students doing work or fieldwork relevant to international relations, and I lead the Masters in International Relations at the University. This is geared towards helping students and those with professional backgrounds go to the next level in understanding and practising IR. I head-up the research group on Global Justice and Instability, which involves researchers from across our school. There’s a great research culture in the school which includes lawyers, criminologists and sociologists as well as politics/international relations specialists. We are often looking at similar issues but through a different lens.
As for my own research, my work explores the link between power, ideas and public policy. I’ve done a lot of work on the European Union but also other aspects of global cooperation, such as trade politics and development policy. Recent publications have been on Brexit, the Global Sustainable Development Goals and changes to development policy due to the changing world system.