In This Review

The Great Hedge of India: The Search for the Living Barrier That Divided a Nation
The Great Hedge of India: The Search for the Living Barrier That Divided a Nation
By Roy Moxham
Carroll & Graf, 2001, 256 pp
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Globalization has made theorizing about the significance of borders fashionable. Here is an implausible example of border maintenance that readers should not overlook. In the nineteenth century, eccentric Englishmen in India thought of constructing a 2,500-mile-long impenetrable hedge, requiring up to 14,000 men to maintain, as a way to stop salt smuggling. Moxham first heard of the Great Hedge in an old book purchased at an antique bookstore. His imagination captured, he then set off on expeditions to London libraries and multiple trips to India to find the hedge's remnants. He tells with wit and style of his frustrations and disappointments, but in the process he provides a vivid picture of contemporary village life in India. Just when he despairs that the only traces of the Great Hedge are left in the India Office archives and old Royal Geographical Society maps, Moxham meets an old man who leads him to a deserted site. There he can at last see a few hundred yards of thicket, the last remains of the hedge. The fact that such a stupendous enterprise was almost forgotten is a good case of the eccentric being treated as commonplace in Victorian England.