From Library Journal The Indian equivalent of the Great Wall, the Customs Hedge, which is rarely mentioned in history books, was grown to prevent the smuggling of salt in response to the East India Company's oppressive Salt Tax. Composed of thorny trees and shrubs, this barrier covered 2500 miles and was attended by 12,000 men for 50 years before it was finally abandoned in 1879. In this notable debut, Moxham, a paper conservator obsessed with the Customs Hedge, recounts his efforts to confirm its existence. Armed with a Global Positioning System navigator and photocopies of old maps from the Royal Geographical Society and sustained by the hospitality of the locals, the author traveled through many remote villages of India's interior until he finally located remnants of the Customs Hedge in dacoit-infested Chambal. In his highly readable account, Moxham exposes the rapacity behind the levy and collection of this historically famous tax and the widespread corruption it engendered. For comprehensive history collections devoted to India and the Raj.DRavi Shenoy, Naperville P.L., IL Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. Read more From Booklist More than 2,000 miles long and tended by 12,000 workers. Was a hedge the British cultivated in India a mad monument to the topiary arts? Quite serendipitously in a colonial memoir, Moxham discovered such an oddity was maintained up to 1879, and he instantly decided to discover the hedge's purpose and any of its physical vestiges. The first task he ascertained from colonial archives stashed in London: the thistly hedge was the barbed-wire fence of its day, marking a customs line imposed to enforce the British tax on salt. Finding the hedge's remnants was a more elusive and frustrating labor, but it propels the travelogue in delightful directions as Moxham trains and ambles about central India, seeking help from villagers in locating the long-forgotten barrier. With revealing digressions into the salt tax's significance in the history of India--Gandhi defied it in 1930--the author rounds out an amazingly curious story, one to enjoy and savor while vicariously accompanying Moxham to see if he does find palimpsests of the hedge on the dusty plains. Gilbert TaylorCopyright ? American Library Association. All rights reserved Read more
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