The Great Hedge of India

Roy Moxham

The Great Hedge of India is a travel / history book. It tells of a chance discovery, in 1995, of a reference to a gigantic1500-mile long hedge that the British grew across nineteenth-century India, and of the author's efforts to find its remains. There are no previous books about this hedge.

More than a search for a piece of forgotten history though, the book describes a personal quest. Chapters on the history of the customs hedge, and tales of the men who built it, are interspersed with chapters on the hunt for its remnants. The book tells of the author's searches - at the beginning, merely on a whim: later as an obsession. It tells of how he looked for the elusive hedge, first in libraries and archives, and then on the ground in India. He took lessons in Hindi, and taught himself land navigation. As his researches progressed he found that the hedge he thought merely a piece of eccentricity was actually an instrument of oppression, used to collect a Salt Tax set so high that the Indians suffered from salt starvation.

There are three trips to India, involving journeys to remote villages and bandit-infested places, and meetings with many unusual people. There are humorous incidents, but many disappointments. It seems that all traces and memories of the customs hedge have disappeared until, on the final expedition in 1998, perseverance is rewarded.

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