Great Hedge of India: The Search for the Living Barrier That Divided a People

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9780786708406: Great Hedge of India: The Search for the Living Barrier That Divided a People

Remarkable" and "astonishing," says Jan Morris of Roy Moxham's account of his search for "one of the least-known wonders of Queen Victoria's India," and John Keay finds it "a compelling read, simply told, and simply wonderful." An unquestionably fascinating tale, as well as a travel book and historical detective story, The Great Hedge of India begins in a secondhand bookshop on London's Charing Cross Road. There Roy Moxham buys the memoir of a nineteenth-century British colonial administrative officer, who makes a passing reference to a giant hedge planted by the British across the Indian subcontinent. That hedge—which for fifty years had been manned and cared for by 12,000 men and had run a length of 2,500 miles—becomes what Moxham calls his "ridiculous obsession." Recounting a journey that takes him to exotic isolated villages deep in the interior of India, Moxham chronicles his efforts to confirm the existence of the extraordinary, impenetrable green wall that had virtually disappeared from two nations' memories. Not only does he discover the shameful role the hedge played in the exploitative Raj and the famines of the late ninteenth century, but he also uncovers what remains of this British grand folly and restores to history what must be counted one of the world's wonders—and a monument to one of the great injustices of Victorian imperialism. "Grandly entertaining ... close to being a perfect story of a fanciful quest."—Boston Globe "A compelling read, simply told and simply wonderful."—John Keay

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From Booklist:

More than 2,000 miles long and tended by 12,000 workers. Was a hedge the British cultivated in India a mad monument to the topiary arts? Quite serendipitously in a colonial memoir, Moxham discovered such an oddity was maintained up to 1879, and he instantly decided to discover the hedge's purpose and any of its physical vestiges. The first task he ascertained from colonial archives stashed in London: the thistly hedge was the barbed-wire fence of its day, marking a customs line imposed to enforce the British tax on salt. Finding the hedge's remnants was a more elusive and frustrating labor, but it propels the travelogue in delightful directions as Moxham trains and ambles about central India, seeking help from villagers in locating the long-forgotten barrier. With revealing digressions into the salt tax's significance in the history of India--Gandhi defied it in 1930--the author rounds out an amazingly curious story, one to enjoy and savor while vicariously accompanying Moxham to see if he does find palimpsests of the hedge on the dusty plains. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

The Indian equivalent of the Great Wall, the Customs Hedge, which is rarely mentioned in history books, was grown to prevent the smuggling of salt in response to the East India Company's oppressive Salt Tax. Composed of thorny trees and shrubs, this barrier covered 2500 miles and was attended by 12,000 men for 50 years before it was finally abandoned in 1879. In this notable debut, Moxham, a paper conservator obsessed with the Customs Hedge, recounts his efforts to confirm its existence. Armed with a Global Positioning System navigator and photocopies of old maps from the Royal Geographical Society and sustained by the hospitality of the locals, the author traveled through many remote villages of India's interior until he finally located remnants of the Customs Hedge in dacoit-infested Chambal. In his highly readable account, Moxham exposes the rapacity behind the levy and collection of this historically famous tax and the widespread corruption it engendered. For comprehensive history collections devoted to India and the Raj.DRavi Shenoy, Naperville P.L., IL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Moxham, Roy
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ISBN 10: 0786708409 ISBN 13: 9780786708406
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