As a military officer, Baden-Powell
was stationed in British India and
Africa in the 1880s and 1890s. Since
his youth, he was fond of woodcraft
and military scouting, and therefore
– as part of their training – showed his men how to survive in
the wilderness. He noticed it taught
the soldiers to develop independence,
rather than just blindly follow officers'
In South Africa in the Second Boer
War, Baden-Powell was besieged in
the small town of Mafeking by a much larger Boer army (the Siege of
Mafeking). The Mafeking Cadet
Corps was a group of youths that
supported the troops by carrying messages, which freed the men for
military duties and kept the boys
occupied during the long siege. The
Cadet Corps performed well, helping in the defense of the town (1899–1900),
and were one of the many factors
that inspired Baden-Powell to form
the Scouting movement. Each member received a badge that illustrated
a combined compass point and spearhead.
The badge's logo was similar to the
fleur-de-lis that Scouting later adopted as its international symbol.
In the United Kingdom the public
followed his struggle to hold Mafeking
through newspapers, and when the siege was broken Baden-Powell had
become a national hero. This
pushed the sales of a small instruction
book he had written about military scouting, Aids to Scouting.
On his return to England he noticed
the large interest of boys in this
book, which was also used by teachers and youth organizations. He
was suggested by several to rewrite this
book for boys, especially during
an inspection of the Boys' Brigade. This brigade was a large youth
movement, drilled with military precision.
Baden-Powell thought this would not
be attractive and suggested that it could grow much larger when scouting
would be used. He studied
other schemes, parts of which he
used for Scouting.
In July 1906, Ernest Thompson Seton
sent Baden-Powell a copy of his book The Birchbark Roll of the Woodcraft
Indians. Seton, a British-born Canadian living in the United States,
met Baden-Powell in October 1906, and they shared ideas about youth
training programs. In 1907 Baden-Powell wrote a draft called Boy Patrols.
In the same year, to test his ideas, he gathered 21 boys of mixed
social backgrounds and held a week-long camp in August on Brownsea
Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset, England. His organizational method,
now known as the Patrol System and a key part of Scouting training,
allowed the boys to organize themselves into small groups with an
elected patrol leader.
In the autumn of 1907, Baden-Powell
went on an extensive speaking tour arranged by his publisher, Arthur
Pearson, to promote his forthcoming book, Scouting for Boys. He had
not simply rewritten his Aids to Scouting, but left out the military
aspects and transferred the techniques (mainly survival) to non-military
heroes: backwoodsmen, explorers (and later on, sailors and airmen).
He also added innovative educational principles (the Scout method)
by which he extended the attractive game to a personal mental education.
Scouting for Boys first appeared
in England in January 1908 as six fortnightly installments, and was
published in England later in 1908 in book form. The book is now the
fourth-bestselling title of all time, and is now commonly considered
the first version of the Boy Scout Handbook.
At the time, Baden-Powell intended
that the scheme would be used by established organizations, in particular
the Boys' Brigade, from the founder William A. Smith. However, because
of the popularity of his person and the adventurous outdoor game he
wrote about, boys spontaneously formed Scout patrols and flooded Baden-Powell
with requests for assistance. He encouraged them, and the Scouting
movement developed momentum. As the movement grew, Sea Scout, Air
Scout, and other specialized units were added to the program.
The Boy Scout movement swiftly established
itself throughout the British Empire
soon after the publication of Scouting for Boys. The first recognized
overseas unit was chartered
in Gibraltar in 1908, followed quickly
by a unit in Malta. Canada became the first overseas dominion with
a sanctioned Boy Scout program,
followed by Australia, New Zealand
and South Africa. Chile was the first country outside the British
dominions to have a recognized Scouting
program. The first Scout rally, held
in 1909 at The Crystal Palace in London, attracted 10,000 boys and
a number of girls. By 1910, Argentina,
Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, India, Malaya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden,
and the United States had
The program initially focused on
boys aged 11 to 18, but as the movement grew, the need became apparent
for leader training and programs for younger boys, older boys, and
girls. The first Cub Scout and Rover Scout programs were in place
by the late 1910s. They operated independently until they obtained
official recognition from their home country's Scouting organization.
In the United States, attempts at Cub programs began as early as 1911,
but official recognition was not obtained until 1930.
Girls wanted to become part of the
movement almost as soon as it began.
Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes Baden-Powell introduced the Girl
Guides in 1910, a parallel movement
for girls, sometimes named Girl Scouts.
Agnes Baden-Powell became the first president of the Girl Guides when
it was formed in 1910,
at the request of the girls who attended
the Crystal Palace Rally. In 1914, she started Rosebuds – later renamed
Brownies – for younger
girls. She stepped down as president
of the Girl Guides in 1920 in favor of Robert's wife Olave Baden-Powell,
who was named Chief Guide
(for England) in 1918 and World Chief
Guide in 1930. At that time, girls were expected to remain separate
from boys because of societal
standards, though co-educational
youth groups did exist. By the 1990s, two thirds of the Scout organizations
belonging to WOSM had become
Baden-Powell could not single-handedly
advise all groups who requested his
assistance. Early Scoutmaster training camps were held in London in
1910 and in Yorkshire in 1911.
Baden-Powell wanted the training
to be as practical as possible to encourage other adults to take leadership
roles, so the Wood Badge
course was developed to recognize
adult leadership training. The development of the training was delayed
by World War I, so the first Wood Badge
course was not held until 1919. Wood
Badge is used by Boy Scout associations and combined Boy Scout and
Girl Guide associations in many countries.
Gilwell Park near London was purchased
in 1919 on behalf of The Scout Association as an adult training site
and Scouting campsite. Baden-Powell
wrote a book, Aids to Scoutmastership,
to help Scouting Leaders, and wrote other handbooks for the use of
the new Scouting sections, such
as Cub Scouts and Girl Guides. One
of these was Rovering to Success, written for Rover Scouts in 1922.
A wide range of leader training
2007, from basic to program-specific,
including the Wood Badge training.
Important elements of traditional
Scouting have their origins in Baden-Powell's experiences in education
and military training. He was a 50-year-old retired army general when
he founded Scouting, and his revolutionary ideas inspired thousands
of young people, from all parts of society, to get involved in activities
that most had never contemplated. Comparable organizations in the
English-speaking world are the Boys' Brigade and the non-militaristic
Woodcraft Folk; however, they never matched the development and growth
Aspects of Scouting practice have
been criticized as too militaristic. Military-style uniforms, badges
of rank, flag ceremonies, and brass bands were commonly accepted in
the early years because they were a part of normal society, but since
then have diminished or been abandoned in both Scouting and society.
Local influences have also been a
strong part of Scouting. By adopting and modifying local ideologies,
Scouting has been able to find acceptance in a wide variety of cultures.
In the United States, Scouting uses images drawn from the U.S. frontier
experience. This includes not only its selection of animal badges
for Cub Scouts, but the underlying assumption that American native
peoples are more closely connected with nature and therefore have
special wilderness survival skills which can be used as part of the
training program. By contrast, British Scouting makes use of imagery
drawn from the Indian subcontinent, because that region was a significant
focus in the early years of Scouting. Baden-Powell's personal experiences
in India led him to adopt Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book as a major
influence for the Cub Scouts; for example, the name used for the Cub
leader, Akela (whose name was also appropriated for the Webelos),
is that of the leader of the wolf pack in the book.
The name "Scouting" seems
to have been inspired by the important
and romantic role played by military scouts performing reconnaissance
in the wars of the time.
In fact, Baden-Powell wrote his original
military training book, Aids To Scouting, because he saw the need
for the improved training of
British military-enlisted scouts,
particularly in initiative, self-reliance, and observational skills.
The book's popularity with young boys surprised
him. As he adapted the book as Scouting
for Boys, it seems natural that the movement adopted the names Scouting
and Boy Scouts.
Duty to God" is a principle of Scouting, though it is applied differently in various countries.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) take
a strong position, excluding atheists.
The Scout Association in the United Kingdom requires adult leaders
to implement the Association's
religious policy which, inter alia,
encourages members to belong to some religious body. Scouts Canada
defines Duty to God broadly in
terms of "adherence
to spiritual principles" and leaves it to the individual member or leader whether they can follow a Scout
Promise that includes Duty to God.