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The Great Hedge of India is about a Great Hedge that was in, errrrr, India. I saw the book in a shop and picked it up out of curiosity. Surely, it couldn't be a book about a big hedge? Perhaps it was some obscure piece of abstract fiction? No, it was about a VERY big hedge so, of course, I had to buy it. The Great Hedge referred to in the title was constructed by the Victorians and was 2,300 miles long and was manned by 12,000 men. Roy Moxham came across a reference to the hedge in a second-hand book and was immediately curious about why he's never heard about the hedge before. After months of fruitless research in which he studied maps and countless books he started to wonder why no one had heard of the hedge (who can blame him? How can a 2,300 mile hedge just disappear into the mists of time!). The book chronicles his research as well as his trips to India to track down the remains of the hedge. The Great Hedge was constructed as a customs barrier to allow the British to collect a tax on salt. The story of how the Victorians built the hedge (with difficulty) and the effect it had on the Indian population is fascinating. Salt was an essential ingredient of the Indian diet and the salt tax led to parts of rural India being deprived of salt. This led to widespread illness and death. Roy Moxham even had problems researching salt deprivation (doctors in the West are obviously more concerned with getting people to eat less salt!). I found the chapter on salt deprivation as interesting as the rest of the book as I didn't know such an illness existed. What I loved about this book is that there is so many different aspects to this story. On the one hand it is an entertaining travelogue, but it is also a fascinating account of the British in India. On the back of the book there is a quote from Jan Morris which goes, "At first I thought this remarkable book must be a hoax...". The story is almost unbelievable and this is wha
t makes it so fascinating. I picked up this book on a whim, but I couldn't put it down once I started reading. One minute I was laughing at Moxham's description of meetings with Indian officials, the next I was horrified at the misery the British inflicted on the Indian population. I think Roy Moxham must be congratulated on the way he manages to veer between the serious and lighter moments so effectively. As you have probably guessed I would recommend this book to anyone. My lasting impression of the book is that while I am disgusted with the way the British treated the Indians a little bit of me can't help admiring anyone who thinks that constructing a 2,300 mile long hedge is a feasible idea!
This is the story of the author's ridiculous quest for a legendary hedge planted across the Indian sub-continent and manned and cared for by 12,000 men. The hedge stood for over 50 years and at its greatest extent, formed part of a barrier 2500 miles long. Although it is one of the largest man-made constructions in human-history, the hedge appears in no history books and remains forgotten in both Britain and India.