Hessel Duncan Hall (1891–1976) was born at Glen Innes, New South Wales, and educated at Sydney Boys High School and the University of Sydney. He was a school teacher before proceeding to Balliol College, Oxford, where he gained a B.Litt. in 1920. He tutored under Oxford University’s extension program. He returned to Australia in 1920, worked for the University of Sydney’s Department of Tutorial Classes, and was the Sydney correspondent for the Manchester Guardian.

Hall moved overseas in 1926 and was an expatriate for the rest of his life. He was Professor of International Relations at Syracuse University before joining the League of Nations Secretariat in Geneva in 1927. In 1935 he was given responsibility within the Secretariat for the British dominions. Hall returned to the United States in 1939, took up a visiting professorship at Harvard University in 1940, and was a member of the British Raw Materials Mission in Washington in 1942–45. He then worked in the British Embassy in Washington where he was in charge of the North American volumes of the official war history. After his retirement in 1956, he continued to live in Washington and devoted himself to historical research.

Hall’s first book, based on his Oxford thesis, was British Commonwealth of Nations (1920) and most of his writings were in the field of international relations. Other books included Mandates, Dependencies and Trusteeship (1948), North American Supply (1955) and Commonwealth: A History of the British Commonwealth of Nations (1971).

British Commonwealth of Nations (1920)

Mandates, Dependencies and Trusteeship (1948)

North American Supply (1955)

Commonwealth: A History of the British Commonwealth of Nations (1971)


Hall had a long association with the Library and as early as 1960 he stated that his personal papers and research material would come to the Library. It was not until 1972 that the first instalment of pamphlets and reprints was received and the bulk of the collection was transferred after his death in 1976.


Printed Materials

The collection donated to the Library contains a considerable quantity of books, pamphlets, reprints, government reports and serials. It is a scholar’s working library. None of the material is exceptionally rare, it is nearly all in English, and the bulk of it was published between 1900 and 1950. The principal subjects are the British Commonwealth, individual Commonwealth countries, English political and constitutional history, Ireland, political biography, international relations, the League of Nations, mandates, race relations, migration, the United States, World War II, the United Nations, the Suez crisis of 1956, and political thought.

Manuscripts and Personal Papers

The personal papers and manuscripts of Hall comprise correspondence, diaries (1942–47), drafts of books, subject files, newspaper cuttings, lectures, official documents, reports and printed items. They mostly date from after Hall’s departure from Australia in 1926. They are arranged in the following series:

  • General correspondence, 1927–75
  • History of the British Commonwealth of Nations
  • Mandates, dependencies and trusteeship
  • Psychological warfare
  • British Raw Materials Mission
  • Drugs
  • League of Nations
  • Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
  • Institute of Pacific Relations
  • Conferences
  • Lectures, talks, addresses
  • Personal papers
  • General subject files
  • Other papers.


About 600 books and pamphlets have been kept together as a collection. They are catalogued individually; the call numbers have the prefixes HALL and HALL PAM. The other publications were integrated into the general collection, the catalogue entries indicating that they formed part of the Hall Collection.

The personal papers are kept together in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 5547. An online finding aid ia available at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-243615815/findingaid.


Fletcher, B.H., Hall, Hessel Duncan (1891–1976), Australian Dictionary of Biography Online

First posted 2008 (revised 2019)