The Friendly Hand Trust
Gabriel Pretus (History MA 2002 and MPhil 2012) is a generous donor to History students studying at postgraduate level, through his charitable trust, The Friendly Hand.
We found about more from him about what motivates him to support our students with travel bursaries and scholarships.
Your trust, The Friendly Hand Trust supports variety of projects across the world – why did you choose to also support students Royal Holloway?
The Friendly Hand Trust, being a Christian charity saw an opportunity to promote Christian studies and established a scholarship for PhD students, under the advocacy of St. Thérése of Lisieux. She is a modern French Saint, and the scholars address modern Christian-related subjects. The Department of History was very receptive and things went on very well. We have helped many students now through our scholarships and travel bursaries.
Why is supporting current history students important to you, and what difference do you think your support makes to their research?
Being aware of the financial needs that research presents to History students (travelling expenses, materials, conference costs etc) we wanted to offer bursaries. I believe this is a flexible source of help for the students that has been managed remarkably well by the Department and covers a real need. When you see the results, the testimonies from the beneficiaries and the research work – I feel that the Friendly Hand support is having a positive impact. Just the last week we received an e-mail from Dr. Christopher Probst, who received a Friendly Hand Scholarships informing us of the publishing in America of his book Demonizing the Jews, based on his thesis and thanking The Friendly Hand help for making his book possible.
Sally Holloway: History PhD Candidate
Sally was awarded a Friendly Hand grant in May 2011, which enabled her to conduct a 17- day research trip to America. Whilst there, she presented a paper at the prestigious Graduate Symposium ‘Material Networks – Networked Materials’. She was able to connect with international historians, art historians, anthropologists, architects and fellow students. Sally also undertook trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lewis Walpole Library in Connecticut, and the Wineterthur Museum and Library in Delaware. Sally said that the trip ‘hugely enriched my research by helping me to discover new and previously unattainable sources, and develop my ideas before an international audience’.
Image: Sally on location in New York's Central Park
Carl-Henrik Bjerstrom: History PhD Candidate
Carl-Henrik is in the second year of his Contemporary History PhD, which focuses on the cultural politics of the Spanish Second Republic and the Civil War. The grant he received enabled him to undertake research trips to several locations in Spain. He said that he ‘would not have been able to advance my empirical research as much as I have without the financial aid of the Trust...Friendly Hand funding has thus made it possible for me to raise the academic standard of my work and allowed me to ground my conclusions (so far) on a solid empirical basis’.
Rebecca Jinks: History PhD Candidate
Rebecca’s PhD thesis explores how the Holocaust has influenced the ways we think about and portray other twentieth-century genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda. Over three successive years, the Friendly Hand Trust has funded her travel to Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda in order to study the memorial initiatives in these three very different places. Rebecca says that ‘a major theme in my thesis and current academic research is the study of how such dark histories are commemorated and memorialised. These research trips have allowed me to pursue important and integral questions in my research’.
Image: On location in Srebrenica, 2011
Elisabetta Iob: History PhD Candidate
Unlocking the historical secrets of a highly-personalised society such as Pakistan requires a great deal of time and patience. Historians – especially foreign ones – must win everyone’s trust in order to gain access to the primary sources they need to carry out their research. Paying long or multiple visits is thus an essential ingredient of any Ph.D. dissertation that aims at being truly innovative and well-documented. Elisabetta was given the opportunity to undertake a second research trip to the Pakistani Punjab, with the Friendly Hand Trust funding fieldwork that Elisabetta describes as the ‘ace up my sleeve’. She says that ‘my Ph.D. owes the Friendly Hand Trust that consistency, vividness and richness in details, data and nuances that only a second visit to Pakistan could have ensured’.
Image: Undertaking fieldwork in Pakistan
Shuja Ahmed: History PhD Candidate
Shuja’s PhD thesis focuses on the analysis of social and economic changes as a result of technological change introduced in twentieth century agriculture in Khairpur, Pakistan. The Friendly Hand Trust enabled him to travel across many territories and archival holdings in India and Pakistan. Funds were used for travel and to conduct interviews in the remotest areas of the district, thus enabling Shuja to meet local people in various villages to explore their untold stories and life experiences of agricultural changes. Shuja says that ‘these research activities were not possible without the timely financial help that came from the Friendly Hand Trust. I am really grateful for the support I received to complete my research’.
Image: Faiz Palace of Khairpur State
Rachel Pistol: History PhD Candidate
Rachel was given two grants from the Friendly Hand Trust, which have enabled her to carry out research whilst working on her thesis on the experiences of those interned in the UK and the US during WWII. She first travelled to America and was able to visit three of the former internment camp sites and she was also able to examine some of the archive material relating to Japanese American internment, housed at UC Los Angeles and UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. She says that ‘the former internment camp sites are located in inhospitable and remote places and so without funding from the Friendly Hand such a trip would have been impossible. Besides giving me access to the source materials essential to my subject, the two trips have enabled me to make contacts with former internees and also to link up with the National Park Service, which maintains the sites as they stand today’.
Image: On location at Camp Amache, Granada, Colorado in 2010
Maria Thomas: History PhD Graduate
Maria was awarded a Friendly Hand PhD studentship in September 2008, which funded all of her PhD research in addition to paying for her tuition frees and living costs for the full three years of study. Her thesis, examined in February 2012 and currently being developed into a book, is entitled ‘The Faith and the Fury: Popular Anticlerical Violence and Iconoclasm in Spain, 1931 – 1936’. Much of her research was conducted in Spanish state, military and ecclesiastical archives. The funding she received gave her ‘an invaluable opportunity to research and write a thesis which contained an expansive selection of primary source documentation. This in turn allowed me to increase my portfolio of academic publications, something which will help me enormously in my future career’.
Image: Taken in the archive of the Spanish Communist Party in Madrid
Emma Tomsett: History PhD Graduate
Emma was given a Friendly Hand Trust grant to enable her to undertake one week’s research at the Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Archives in Liverpool, as part of her PhD investigating women’s journeys abroad by rail and sea between 1870 and 1940. She says that it proved to be ‘an invaluable trip as the Museum’s archive was one of the richest sources of original material I found during my research’. Emma is currently adapting her thesis into a book, which will be published by the University of Manchester Press. She notes that she is ‘extremely grateful to the Trust for the extra funding they gave me; financial life as a PhD researcher can be tough, and their grant helped me to make one of my most important research trips’.
Gabriel Pretus: History Mphil Graduate