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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  345 ratings  ·  65 reviews
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 booksho ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 7th 2002 by Basic Books (first published January 25th 2001)
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Prashanthini Mande
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Prashanthini by: Shanmugam
Shelves: history
"When I had first started my search for the Customs Hedge, I had been looking for a folly, a harmless piece of English eccentricity. It had been a shock to find that the great hedge was, in reality, a monstrosity; a terrible instrument of British oppression."

Recently, I have been reading a lot about Indian history, particularly about the British rule and the freedom struggle. No other book gave me a proper scale of British atrocity like this one.

Read the full review on my blog!
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

I go to the supermarket today and I see those rows and rows of spices (garlic, onion, pepper, etc.) and I'd remember that once upon a time, in a not-too-distant past, these were as precious as gold and silver, and entire nation (Spain, Portugal, England, etc.) would finance expeditions, conquer territories and indulge in piracy and killings just to corner the sources of these.

Salt is not technically spice. Or is it? But similarly it was equally valuable before and is quite cheap nowadays unlike
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Untiring Effort of an Adventurous Human Spirit

Roy Moxham unearths a reminder of an ugly episode from British Empire of Bengal Presidency during the 19th century. Mr. Moxham found a small reference in a book published 100 years ago. A phenomenon which was never recorded by historians of either British or India. So, he went on to spend years on scrounging through administrative records, old maps and a month long trip for three consecutive years to India.

An amazing travelogue is interspersed with h
William Irvine
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This may not be everyone's bag, but being interested in India - and British Indian history in particular - The Great Hedge ticked all the boxes as far as I was concerned. I'd often wondered why, of all the options, it was salt that the East India company chose to tax. Roy Moxham explores this question thoroughly and satisfactorily - also explaining why, as a tax that impacted absolutely everyone rather than just rich landowners for example, doing so was so iniquitous. He also helps the reader un ...more
John Kidman
A fascinating story, probably a three and a half. I felt it got a bit bogged down with the search and the salt tax and I preferred his 'A Brief History of Tea' which had more 'meat' in it, but nonetheless, most enjoyable. ...more
Penelope Green
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an impulse purchase when I realised I didn't have much non-fiction on the To Read shelf and it was a good impulse. The official subject is a search for the 2,300 mile customs barrier that separated British Bengal from the rest of British India in a quest to tax salt amongst other things. The title reflects that in 1877, 411 miles of this was a live 14ft hedge and another 768 miles was dry hedge or still-developing live hedge.

But the book ranges over the related subjects in an informativ
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my best reads in the recent past. Some chapters were so revealing of things that I had no clue about that the read wasnt easy at all. However, Roy Moxham, doesnt use the entire book just to give out facts, he mixes it with his travelogue on trying to unearth some remains of the old hedge. What comes across clearly is his commitment and perseverance.

Even though the book is wonderful and you will have complete admiration for the writer and for his efforts, if you are an Indian, you are lik
Bookendsused Pefferly
A guy finds an old book on the history of India in a used bookstore (a common theme in the books I read - hmmm). He finds mention of a 1,000 mile long hedge grown as a Customs wall in the 1800s (British Occupancy). Intrigued, he tries to find out more (and to find if any of the hedge is still around).

I love offbeat books like this. The author mentions taking photographs of his adventures. I wish that some of those and a copy of the Hedge Map had been included. They were sorely missed.
I found this book second-hand on a physical shelf at Powell's. Fascinating account of a vegetal version of the Great Wall of China or the Berlin Wall or Hadrian's Wall; or the U.S. border fence with Mexico a structure, in this case a living structure, to keep the wrong sort on the other side. Another sad chapter in the history of colonialism but so crazy an idea that you can't believe it ever took shape.
"Procul, O procul este profani" Aeneid VI, 257
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: non-fiction
This book depicts so many levels of human nature. Mr. Moxam's journey and obsession to find this living barrier; the historical significance of this hedge; and the death and inhumanity imposed on the people of India. The greed of return on investment and profit margins millions of Indians were sacrificed just to improve the bottom line, how shameful is that? ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

4.5 ☆
Finished reading ... The Great Hedge of India / Roy Moxham ... 23 May 2018
ISBN: 1841192600 … 234 pp.

The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the Israeli West Bank Barrier, Trump's Mexican Wall and … the Great Hedge of India?!??

Author Roy Moxham saw a brief reference to this hedge and became like a man possessed. That comes over so clearly at the beginning of the book that I wondered if the book was going to be readable. It is! And what an amazing tale. Outside his day job and during his a
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost by chance India travel writer Roy Moxham came across a stray reference of customs barrier that ran from Multan in the north to Burhanpur in the south, effectively separating Eastern and Western India. Erected during the days of the East India company, the purpose of this barrier was to control the salt trade, one of the profitable sources of tax revenue. The length of this barrier was such, that if erected in Europe it would join London and Istanbul.

This book is a fascinating story of Roy
Rhonda Wiley-Jones
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Author goes looking for the great hedge of India that was built in an earlier era. His search and findings about the salt tax of India and other historical facts are intriguing in and of themselves. But his dedication over years and years to find exactly where and how and why this hedge was built becomes a fascination for the reader, as much as author.

You should be interested in India's history and/or culture to read this book. It is fixed on one specific element, but covers a broader array of
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Like a detective who finds a tiny clue of something unusual, Moxham goes in search of a hedge planted across India as a deterrent to salt theft. He'd never heard of this hedge, the people he talks to about its long ago existence know nothing of it, and I certainly had never heard of it. I really enjoyed his humor and descriptive writing as he tells us about this goose chase. A tiny bit of history all but lost. I'm glad I came across this book. ...more
Nallasivan V.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Quick read. The great hedge that the British apparently built to collect salt tax is one of the incredible stories that is hardly spoken about in colonial history. Roy Moxham does a great job of unearthing this colonial quirk in this little, engaging book. But I wish he had spent more time pursuing the salt tax narrative than actually trying to physically locate the hedge in 90s India. That aside, this book is a unique read.
Ravikumar Paulpandian
The great hedge

What starts as a Brit's typical adventure quest ,for search of colonial folie de grandeur turns transforms into a compelling tale of conscience..The book shows through Roy Moxham , the indomitable, unrelenting and mad British spirit that colonized half the world, the friendly masses of this chaotic nation and the Mahatma, redeemer of both the conqueror and the unfortunate..Cyril Alex's translation is seamless and breezy...A must read for everyone
Seth Isenberg
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, india
This was a fun read. Part travelogue, part mystery, part history lesson, this book sheds light on a forgotten part of colonial Indian history and a massive public works project. My only problem with the book was a total lack of pictures and only a single map at the beginning. For a story that relies on maps and has a goal of photographic evidence, it left me wanting to see some examples of what Moxham was talking about.
Dharmajit Sarangi
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Touching upon an interesting facet of history - of salt, it’s importance, taxation in British India and an impossible hedge barrier running across India to control, tax and monopolise manufacturing and distribution. Pains taken by Roy to look for it in late 1990s India in UP is a very interesting read. This was never in the history books!
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling story, both the historical narrative and the author's present-day quest; engaging and direct style. ...more
Sambit Basu
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a 3.5 star. Well dcoumented, however the organization of the book with inserted history is somewhat distracting. ...more
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This took quite a bit of time to read, but it was worth it, bringing to light something most of us have never heard of.
Dinesh Arul
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
1857 British company act to killed many Indians...That period very cruel.
Ganesamoorthy K
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of a great read!!
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
A ridiculous British Colonial attempt at salt tax collection - fascinating story
Mar 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Should have photos. He mentions taking photos but the book is not illustrated. Now I need to see the remaining bit the author found and I can’t.
Apr 09, 2021 rated it really liked it

Before reading this book all I knew about the Indian Salt Tax was from the movie, 'Ghandi'; that it was considered unfair and was the focus of protests and civil disobedience. I'm now aware of how monstrously regressive the tax was and how, to enforce it, the British created an internal customs barrier running down the spine of India, comprised mostly of a gigantic hedge.

Roy Moxham first learned about the hedge in the memoir of an imperial era official. He took it at first to be a sort of Br
Vari Lemur
Apr 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-tales
A book about some long forgotten piece of history. Well written. Who would have thought a book about a 19th century hedge could be an interesting read?
Martin Chambers
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I remember when Google announced they were going to photograph everything and put it on the internet and call it 'street view'. I was astonished at the audacity. Such thinking was surely the result of the modern age where we have the technology and understanding to think big. Well, no. The Chinese built a wall. The British built a hedge. Now we could joke about long term planning of these two cultures, but think about it. Rocks fall and crumble. A hedge, thorny and self perpetuating.
What sets t
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A small but interesting book that examines a little-known piece of British Imperialism in India. The British government needed a way of controlling the taxation of salt-a vital foodstuff without which many people would perish. Do exert control the British Empire built a 3,000 mile hedge running from north-west to mid-south India. They had it patrolled and maintained by an army of colonial police. This allowed them to extort money from this essential resource as well as increase the price of salt ...more
Dec 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Surprisingly interesting subject - I never realized salt was so heavily taxed in India, first by the British East India Company and later by the British Empire. They assumed it was a condiment like sugar and there had been debate about taxing sugar as heavily, but the wealthier classes didn't want that. The author tries to find the hedge by going to India and using maps combined with a GPS system, but the thorny hedge plants have died and the ground has been reused for farmland and roads. Chlori ...more
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Roy Moxham is author of The Great Hedge of India (2001). After thirteen years in Africa, he became first a dealer in African Art, then a book conservator, now in charge of preservation and conservation at the University of London Library.

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