The following article was published in the Hall Family Newsletter - 2004 and explains the connection between Erin Ihde and Edward Smith Hall. Erin’s untiring interest in Monitor Hall is our gain (and hopefully, his) and I constantly remind myself of our family’s good fortune of the day that Hall and his newspaper was discovered by Erin.
‘Hitting the Jackpt - by Erin Ihde’
In early 1997 I was a postgraduate student embarking on the first steps of his Ph.D. in Australian history at the University of New England, Armidale. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do - something that looked at custom, tradition and polular rights in early colonial society, examining how they had transferred from Britain and were being applied in or adapted to the new Colony. One of the first sources I started to look at was a fairly obscure newspaper called the Sydney Monitor. It very quickly became clear that I had hit the jackpot first go. Here was a man called Edward Smith Hall who was holding forth on all manner of issues relating to colonial society, spelling out his thoughts on how he believed it should be run and concentrating a good deal on just those themes I was looking for.
Hall and the Monitor very quickly became the main focus of my thesis. As I read through the paper I was following a continuous record of Hall’s thoughts over furteen years. No other person stayed at the helm of one paper for so long during the period, making the Monitor a unique document of its time. Indeed, the title of my thesis became ‘A Manifesto for New South Wales: Edward Smith Hall and the Sydney Monitor, 1826 - 1840′. The paper is a manifesto of Hall’s thoughts on colonial society and he clearly saw it as such, recognising the importance of newespapers in setting down the history of a country and its times for future generations to consult.
I was thus able to set out Hall’s views on everything from religion to race relations, from convict rights to the role of women, from popular recreations to popular customs, in my thesis. The task was not always straightforward - Hall could follow a clear line of reasoning for some time and then suddenly publish an article which contradicted everything he had been saying so far! This, though, just added to the challenge of making sense (or some sort of sense!) of his work.
It also became clear during my research that although Hall had been an important figure during his time, nowadays when he was mentioned in history books it tended to be as a walk-on player in somebody else’s story, rather than as a lead character in his own right. I have published several articles on Hall as well as delivered several conference papers on him and my thesis has been accepted for publication as a book by Australian Scholarly Publishing. He has helped me gain a permanent position as an Associate Lecturer at the University of New England, so Monitor certainly has been good to me!
Soon after I completed my thesis I was contacted by Scott Hall, who unbeknownst to me was living only a few blocks away in Armidale the whole time. He in turn put me on to sue Talbot and Jenny Priestley and so a whole new aspect of Hall is emerging to me. Who knows, perhaps a full-scale biography might be possible, by me or some other keen researcher. At any rate, it has been a fascinating experience studying his work and I hope my work has done him some justice.