View Full Version : The Great Hedge of India

Ah Well
28-07-2010, 08:35 PM
Has anyone else on here come across this I wonder ... A most fascinating account and a Book I must certainly pick up for a read in the not too distant future.

"The Great Hedge of India" by Roy Moxham, 2001

Moxham, a Senior University of London Library Conservator, chanced in 1995 upon a book describing a giant hedge, running east to west, 2,500 miles long and six to 12 feet thick, and guarded by 12,000 men, in British India in the late 19th century. This "eccentric enterprise... a quintessentially British folly," as Moxham calls the hedge, was designed as a Customs Border, in particular to collect the salt tax that was so oppressive to India's poor. It also controlled the opium trade. The actual barrier consisted of fences, stone walls, and above all a nearly impenetrable barrier of trees, thorny bushes, and hedges, with periodic guard stations. The Great Hedge was largely forgotten about in India as well as in Britain, without even passing mentions in standard histories, until its existence was unearthed by Moxham.

Gandhi, who called the salt tax "the most inhuman poll tax that ingenuity of man can devise," led a march in 1930 to illegally make salt from the sea, which signaled the beginning of his nonviolent struggle for India's independence.

Moxham became obsessed with the customs hedge, and in this Book he describes how he enlisted the aid of Indian friends in the course of three trips to India to find the remnants of the hedge, which seemed to be largely forgotten. Along the way, Moxham searched for scale maps, he mastered navigators and compasses, he visited 2,000-year-old temples and became adept at getting people in several tiny isolated villages to house him, to transport him and to help him find the remains of the hedge. After finding two small remnants, he encounters an old man who remembers the old men in his youth talking about the hedge. The old man helps him on the final leg of his quest, where he locates the hedge not far from where he had calculated, based on an 1876 map, that it would be -at the same latitude, and only about one mile farther east.