Scouting for Boys - the Influences, the Means, the Process and its Success
The purpose of this series of articles is to show that there were many significant influences that played their part in the writing of the book for which Baden-Powell is best remembered. Each 'Milestone' being an ingredient, as it were, in the recipe. It is important, however, not to loose sight of the central importance of the chef! The ingredients were very special and have deserved to have been considered separately, however 'the proof of the pudding' is to be found in the book Scouting for Boys - the most important of the Scouting Milestones
SOME of the factors which combined and led to the writing of Scouting for Boys are difficult to identify, or, some cases, justify. There were, however, major influences on Baden-Powell to which he was ready to freely admit, which must have made him more sure of himself and that his ideas would be popular:
- Baden-Powell often said that he began his Scouting with his brothers. He is also on record as saying that he could never have written Scouting for Boys without the encouragement of his mother - "... it was largely thanks to her that the Scout Movement made its start in the world." These family influences are to be examined in the forthcoming Scouting Milestone, Nature or Nurture.
- B-P's observation of the Mafeking Cadets, their discipline, their usefulness in a time of great difficulties and their willingness to be of service, sowed the seeds of the idea that Cadets like these could be equally as useful in times of peace as in times of war.
- The success of Aids to Scouting after the Relief Of Mafeking, particularly amongst young boys, may have surprised B-P, particularly as the book was not a 'populist' one, but an Army manual intended for "NCOs and Men".
- B-P's publisher - no doubt with half an eye on profits - suggested that a new edition of the book, this time directed at a wider audience, would sell. By the time of the 'experimental' camp on Brownsea Island, Pearson had committed himself to publishing a major revision of Aids to Scouting and sent his Literary Manager to Brownsea to see how work was progressing and to act as B-P's editor for the undertaking.
- B-P's experiences in introducing 'Scouting' as a system that could, and did, work within other organisations, such as the Boys' Brigade, must have shown B-P that he was on the right lines.
- William Smith, the founder of the Boys' Brigade, challenged B-P to write an edition of Aids to Scouting specifically for boys.
All these influences have been documented separately in other Scouting Milestones, as following the links above will show. There is, however, one man whose ideas and work were more closely in tune with those of B-P, whose practical example - he had already formed his own youth organisation - and whose influence was probably greater than that of any other individual on B-P and the writing of Scouting for Boys. Yet other writers, I feel, either ignore him entirely, or concentrate on his own claim to have invented Scouting. He is sometimes portrayed as the victim of plagiarism by B-P and that there was animosity between the two men, the other Milestones have mentioned him only in passing - that man was Ernest Thompson Seton.
Ernest Thompson Seton
AT the end of July 1906, Baden-Powell received a complimentary book through post - not an unusual occurrence - he must have received hundreds during his lifetime. The book was by Ernest Thompson Seton who was born in Durham in 1860 but had emigrated to Canada. Like B-P, Seton was a gifted artist. He had become an expert on wildlife and was interested in the folklore of the North American Indians. Like B-P, he had already published several popular books and the one that he had sent B-P was collection of seven previously-published articles under the title 'The Birch Bark Roll'. Seton had formed a youth organisation in 1902 called the 'Woodcraft Indians', had visited England in 1904 to lecture on his organisation, and was here again in 1906, when he organised a series of four trial camps.
Baden-Powell was staggered to find that Seton's book ran on parallel lines to his own scheme and wrote straight back to him suggesting a meeting.
"... I need scarcely say your work has a very special interest for me."
The day after their meeting, B-P sent Seton a copy of Aids to Scouting, and his draft proposals for his new scheme. "You will see that our principals seem practically identical - except that mine do not necessarily make their own organisation, they are applicable to existing ones. If we can work together in the same direction I should be very pleased indeed - for I am sure that there are great possibilities before us."
They were not able to meet in the coming months, but corresponded regularly. Seton got B-P to revise the Campcraft section in The Birch Bark Roll, and B-P got Seton's permission to use some of his material. The two men then went their separate ways.
Seton went on to become the first Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, merging his own organisation, the 'Woodcraft Indians', into the new structure.
In 1910, B-P was at a Boy Scouts of America dinner in the USA where Seton introduced B-P as the "father of Scouting". Baden-Powell replied that Seton had made a slight error. "There were many fathers", and that he (B-P) was "only one of the uncles".
Later, Seton laid claim to be being the originator of Scouting. He was totally justified in pointing to Baden-Powell's wholesale borrowings from the The Birch Bark Rolls and an earlier Seton publication, Two Little Savages. It has to be said however that B-P never hid this. In issue number 1 of Scouting for Boys in its original fortnightly form, B-P recommended that boys read Seton's Book. Moreover, at the Brownsea Island camp, B-P gave at least one of the boys present, as a prize to an individual, or as a gift to all the boys attending (we will probably never know), a copy of Seton's Two Little Savages. We are fortunate indeed that one of these books, dedicated in B-P's own hand, has survived and is illustrated on the Brownsea Island Page.
Baden-Powell maintained his public respect for Seton throughout his life. The Scout magazine, according to Sir Percy Everett in his book The First Ten Years, contained continuous editorials by B-P from its inception to B-P's death - except for three occasions. On two of those, Seton was invited to address the British Scout Movement - hardly the gesture of a man who wished to conceal his debt of gratitude to Seton.
However, Seton's bitterness was not just directed at B-P. There were many power struggles in early US Scouting. Eventually the Boy Scouts of America, endorsed by Baden-Powell, received a Congressional Charter in 1916. This proclaimed that only one form of Scouting (the BSA) could exist in the USA By that time Seton had been ousted Dr James West, who many now recognise as the true architect of the Boy Scouts of America. (See page 2 of the online factsheet on the BSA Website) Nevertheless, there are many, particularly in the US, who still think of Seton the founding father, it is ironic then that Seton's writings were removed from the first US Boy Scout Handbook. It is not clear whether this was done by West or at Seton's own request.
There is more on this fascinating man and the early days of Scouting on the Milestones Page Ernest Thompson Seton: The Beginnings of Controversy by American contributor David C Scott.
AFTER reading many books and articles on the origins of Scouting, that deal in much greater detail than my own summary, I have been left somewhat bemused by those who seem to delight in suggesting that B-P stole Scouting from others.
Scouting was born from the fame of 'The Hero of Mafeking'. It was this impetus, coupled with B-P's ability to write directly to the heart of his audience, that gripped the individual and sustained the Movement.
It was the messenger as much as the message that embodied the spirit of Scouting. Yes, Scouting for Boys contains ideas from Seton, and from many other authors whose books were to be found on the bookshelves at 32 Princes Gate, Baden-Powell's London home. He 'cribbed' from them all, and freely admitted doing so.
Baden-Powell had long since perfected a system of organising his resources prior to writing. He had an old tin dispatch box into which he added notes, extracts, anything at all to illustrate his overall concept. And that is the point, B-P borrowed extensively from Seton, from past codes of chivalry, from other cultures, from 'modern' educationalists, from anybody who had anything to say that supported the way he wanted HIS Movement to go.
Scouting is 'the sum of many parts', and though B-P was keen to make links and, where possible, merge with other youth organisations, there is no doubt that he had a very clear concept of what made Scouting unique.
That Sir William Smith, founder of the Boys' Brigade, turned down the offer to combine the two organisations because Scouting was not sufficiently Christian in its content illustrates the point. Seton was not a religious person and famously refused to acknowledge the existence of a God. Seventy percent of Scout Groups have consistently been sponsored by religious denominations from most of the world religions. Given that some of these have at times been in conflict with each other during different times in the twentieth century, this is no mean feat. 'Duty to God' is still a central part of the Promise all Scouts must make. B-P did not choose to follow Smith or Seton, or even a middle way. He chose his way.
B-P's travels exposed him to many cultures, but, like all Victorians, he viewed the world from the perspective of the British Empire, and from the particular stance of a successful Army Officer. He had little contact with young people, and no experience of running a youth organisation. He read and consulted widely, he borrowed, imitated and copied where the ideas of others supported his own philosophy. Not to do so would have been foolish and indeed somewhat arrogant. The fact that he did so, gave Scouting its distinctive wide appeal and is very much to its benefit.
The Means - Sir Arthur Pearson
BADEN-POWELL'S publisher, Sir Arthur Pearson, had progressively gained control of the popular end of newspaper and magazine publishing. Among his titles were the Daily Express and the Evening Standard. He was, in today's terms, a rich tycoon, who sought not only the approval of politicians, but to have influence as well. According to Sir Percy Everett he was a trusted advisor of Joseph Chamberlain who said he was "...the greatest hustler I have ever known." Pearson used his position and wealth to invite the great and good to his weekend house parties. It was no surprise then that, in July 1906, B-P should find himself as weekend guest at Pearson's Country House at Frensham Place, Surrey.
During the weekend Pearson left his guests to visit one of his charity projects, a local "cripple's home" (in the wonderfully politically un-correct term of the time) and this work, together with his major sponsorship of the Fresh Air Fund which had taken 6,000,000 children out for a day in the country and over 110,000 for a healthy fortnight, must have impressed B-P, who otherwise had a jaundiced view of the press, calling them 'vermin' in the run-up to the camp on Brownsea Island. Over dinner that night, B-P outlined his ideas to use Army Scout training to the benefit of British Youth. He was later to say that Pearson was "...the first public man to whom I spoke of the idea." Also at the table was Pearson's Literary Editor, Percy Everett.
Everett, in his book The First Ten Years, sets the scene: "So after dinner that evening, the Chief told us of his own boyhood, his experiences with his patrol of brothers, (A future Milestones article - Nature or Nurture - will cover this in more detail) about the splendid work carried out by the boys at Mafeking, and about the success of his book Aids to Scouting" Everett writes that B-P went on to make a strong case for some worthwhile form of training to rescue the one and three quarter million boys in the country who were "...drifting towards hooliganism." He asked Pearson to help him launch his ideas. "Pearson was very much impressed. So were we all."
Pearson was probably the only man in the country who could turn B-P's dream into a reality in such a short space of time. He was a publicist of great skill and a man of immediate action. By the time the weekend was over, the two had agreed on a programme to launch B-P's scheme.
THE first thing to be done was to agree a name. Everett records that Pearson suggested that as the scheme was to be partly based on Aids to Scouting it should contain the word 'Scouting'. B-P agreed it was little use having a name like the 'Society for the Propagation of Moral Attributes' and came back with the title Boy Scouts. Next was to outline a 'plan of action'
- A letter was drafted to go to all influential figures throughout the country. B-P was to continue with his lecturing work
- A publication to be called Scouting for Boys was to be published in fortnightly parts in the spring of 1908
- The Scout, a weekly publication for boys, was similarly projected. The profits from this were to go to Pearson to compensate him for the £1,000 he was 'giving' to B-P to fund his lecture tour
- A press campaign was planned to interest the public at large in the scheme
In the meantime, B-P was to proceed with his plans to hold an experimental camp, which was to take place on Brownsea Island
in July 1907.
Pearson had put Everett in charge of his links with B-P, whilst he concentrated on expanding his empire, and so it was natural that Everett should visit the Brownsea camp and become the editor of Scouting for Boys. B-P wrote to him in September 1907:
"I now hope to be able to organise the wider distribution of this scheme and to issue a Handbook or 'Self Educator' such as will assist Schoolmasters, Officers of Boys and Church Lads' Brigades and Cadet Corps and all others interested in boys..."
It was B-P's intention that this 'Instructors' Manual' should be the first part of the Scouting for Boys fortnightly series of booklets that had been suggested by Pearson. This would culminate in an invitation for men to take up his scheme or become local secretaries working "...in communication, (but not bondage)" with B-P. Everett persuaded B-P to keep the Manual for the final part of the fortnightly series and as a separate section. The important thing first was to go for the major market, the boys.
There were many consultations in the autumn of 1907 as to what should be the final form of the publication. There was pressure for an early publication from the public that had been alerted by B-P on his lecture tour that a book was in preparation, and Pearson was not the man to let grass grow under B-P's feet!
The Izaak Walton Hotel (named after the famous fly fisherman who fished the River Dove and wrote The Compleat Angler.) No doubt B-P fished here too. Later, when he moved to Pax Hill, he was to become a member of the Bentley Fly Fishing Club
ON 15th June, 1907, just before the Brownsea camp, B-P set out with his tin dispatch box, bursting with notes and cuttings, to the Izaak Walton Hotel, in Dovedale, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire. It was a there that B-P had qualms about totally committing his scheme to Pearson, because of the newspaper magnate's political profile. He wrote to Seton who had launched his own 'Woodcraft Indians' via a magazine and, suitably reassured, threw himself into the venture. Though he found his surroundings ideal, he was forever having to break off to go back to London for engagements. B-P needed the seemingly impossible - a place remote enough to write without interruption, preferably in the countryside he loved, yet at the same time close to Town.
On 26 December, 1907, Baden-Powell took up residence in a cottage under the Windmill on Wimbledon Common belonging to a Mrs Fetherstonhaugh. There is a difference of opinion here - William Hillcourt in his Baden-Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero says that she was the widow of an Army officer B-P had met in Malta. Perhaps she had re-married, because Tim Jeal, in his biography of Baden-Powell says that B-P's mother thought this arrangement very improper and insisted he contacted "the cantankerous" Mr Fetherstonhaugh. B-P did so and wrote to her that Mr F. had written, "...wishing me a good time, so it's all right."
The Windmill on Wimbledon Common
Perhaps a word on pronunciation would be of interest here: The place-name 'Featherstone' occurs in Northumberland, Staffordshire and what used to be known as the West Riding of Yorkshire. It commemorates the existence of a cromlech of three upright stones with a capstone laid across them, which must have already been ancient when the namers gave the place its name. In the latter two instances of the name it has been spelt and, presumably, pronounced much as we would today - the earliest written form of the Staffordshire version occurring in 996 as 'Feotherestan'. The Northumbrian version differs, however. Up to 1236 the name was recorded as 'Fetherestanehalg' or 'Fetherstanhishalu'. With its added word-element, it seems likely that the Fetherstonhaugh family came from here.
With such an ancient name, it is not, perhaps, surprising that there are many different pronunciations of it - but 'Fetherstonhaugh' excels in this respect - it is one of only three words in the English language which have no less than five different pronunciations - 'feather-stun-haw', 'feerston-shaw', 'feston-haw', 'feeson-hay' and, shortest of all, 'fan-shaw'. I assume that Mrs Fetherstonhaugh was upper-class in her upbringing or outlook, so guess that, with their predilection for bizarre pronunciations, that 'fan-shaw' was how the Fetherstonhaughs pronounced their name.
Incidentally, whilst on the subject, Mrs Betty Clay, the youngest daughter of the Baden-Powells, is recorded as saying that her maiden name (and, therefore, the way that B-P himself would have said it) was pronounced 'bay-den pole'.
Everett visited B-P several times at the Windmill and found him easy to work with which was not always the case with all the writers of his acquaintance. The process of proof reading was made much easier by the way the B-P quickly returned all correspondence writing directly on the copy sent to him. (Just a bit like the way I work with my Web Designer!)
Everett was much impressed with B-P's clear hand-written manuscript, illustrated directly with his own sketches.
"It was fascinating to watch him writing and sketching, now with his right hand, now with his left..."
Part of the original manuscript in the Scout Association Archive now at Gilwell
"I can still see him at Wimbledon, surrounded by a mass of papers, sketches, notes and all sorts of cuttings and letters."
PART one of the six-part series was published by Horace Cox, a printer owned by Pearson's, on 15th January, 1908, Priced at 4d, with the subsequent parts appearing every other Wednesday.
The cover, shown below, with its drawing by John Hassall, like B-P a member of the London Sketch Club, was meant to emphasise the spirit of adventure and the widening of horizons.
Scouting for Boys has been compared to the 'Reader's Digest'. It is a collection of articles designed to interest boys. Those written by B-P, styled 'Camp Fire Yarns', are in his usual anecdotal style, displaying his gift for engaging the reader on a personal basis. There are though extracts from books such as Kim by Rudyard Kipling and 'thrilling' stories and plays, some of which bear the 'bloodthirsty' imprint of the populist publisher Pearson.
The main reason for the book was to provide boys with a means of finding out about Scouting. What is a Scout? And, at least as important, what you had to do to become one. The answers are all there. "You join a patrol, or ... raise a patrol yourself by getting five other boys to join..." It was necessarily a 'do it yourself' kit to Scouting. Thanks to Pearson's, the plea for men of all classes to help provide the leadership for the new movement had to wait until the final part was published in April.
It is difficult, all these years on and having grown up with Scouting as an existing Movement, to gauge what impact Scouting for Boys must have had when first published. Here was a war hero (and despite what we may think in our adult life, small boys love playing war-like games and venerate the heroes that wars can produce), who was saying to those boys, in today's language - "You enjoyed Aids to Scouting, now here's a book especially for you, telling you how to become a Scout yourself. You want to be a Scout? Fine, all you have to do is find four of five other boys who want to as well and that's it! - You're Scouts! If you have problems that you can't sort out with the help of this book, ask an adult to help, but remember you are the ones in charge, the adults are there as 'enablers'." B-P felt that Scouters should be older brother-like advisors, and hated the term 'Scoutmaster'. It must have been all-but revolutionary at the time and if it were new again today, it would be just as exciting.
SOME people have exercised their minds as to whether this was a handbook for war or peace. The sub-title of Scouting for Boys is A Handbook for Instruction and Good Citizenship, however, the very first 'Yarn' is about the Mafeking Cadets and how they helped their country in a time of war. A few pages later, B-P goes on to make a distinction between 'War Scouts' and 'Peace Scouts'. Army Scouts and the Mafeking Cadets had, in a time of war, already shown what a valuable contribution they could make - a subject which I hope to deal with in greater detail in a future Milestone - whilst peace scouting, B-P wrote, involved Scoutcraft that can be put into practice at home.
There is no doubt that B-P played-up the idea of patriotism. He was one of the first to foresee the growing strength of Germany as cause for future conflict and had spoken publicly about the necessity of being ready for such an eventuality. The motto Be Prepared clearly included being ready to cope in all situations including that of war. However, in the final part of the fortnightly issues, Baden-Powell rebuffs those who had criticised the early parts of Scouting for Boys as being 'militaristic' in outlook.
"I can only fear that these gentlemen have not read the handbooks very carefully, or I have expressed myself very badly. Even if I had advocated training the lads in a Military way, (which I have not done) I find no harm in it..." B-P re-states his central message, "The whole intention of the Boy Scouts' Training is for peaceful citizenship." Yet in this same issue he encouraged his would-be Scouts to learn to shoot! "So make yourselves good scouts and good rifle shots on order to protect the women and children of your country should it become necessary."
The recurring theme was that if you want peace you must prepare for war. B-P did not however believe he was training solders, but making future citizens aware of their responsibilities. (A future web page on the role Scouts did actually play in the two world wars is projected). The three 'Peace Cruises' that took place in the run-up to the Second World War shows that Baden-Powell, like many another, really did learn from the carnage of the First World War trenches, where a great many of his first Scouts were cut down, including, sadly, almost 30% of the boys who had been with him on that first camp on Brownsea Island. It is not surprising that all eyes should be focused, as they are after any war, on seeing that 'it never happens again', and that peace lasts forever.
Personally, I am unsurprised by the war-like emphasis. I was born towards the end of the Second World War. As a boy, we ran around playing 'Germans and Commandos' or 'Cowboys and Indians', shooting each other so often that it is surprising our mothers still had anyone left to feed. This, to us, was normal play and, though psychologists and the martyrs to political correctness may be appalled, it did not turn many of us into psychopaths or serial killers. When Scouting for Boys was published, it was only a few short years after an earlier war. That this war figured in stories in the series should not take us by surprise - young boys would be as excited by such stories then as we were in turn in our childhood, despite the despair this might cause some 'modern' educationalists.
THE re-occurring charge of 'militarism' has dogged the Movement to the present day. There are many who are happy to lump all 'unformed organisations' under one military hat.
Another popular charge against the book, perhaps exemplified by author Michael Rosenthal in his The Character Factory, is that B-P designed the movement to serve the existing order and indoctrinate the young of the nation to become the gun-fodder for the next world war.
Such attacks have sold books and become the basis for TV documentaries, but of course they tend to ignore anything that does not support their contention.
As a public figure in the year 1907 how subversive was B-P being when he told his immense readership of susceptible young minds not to believe all a politician says? "The thing is to listen to them all, and don't be persuaded by any particular one, for they all tell fibs, and they each want to get into power." Baden-Powell was careful to balance his criticism and praise of the major political parties, but was true to his Laws for me when I am old, written when he was just eight years old, (there will be more on this in the proposed Milestone article Nature or Nurture). In Scouting for Boys under the title Our Government B-P writes. "The Socialists are right in wanting to get money more evenly distributed so there would be no millionaires and no paupers ..."
I doubt that that was considered at the time to be plea for maintaining the existing order! In my opinion, however, B-P's most revolutionary statement comes from the set of rules, in Part 1 of Scouting for Boys, that all Boy Scouts were expected to live by. They have been amended over time but still remain central to the concept of what a Scout is. I refer particularly to the fourth Scout Law:
"A Scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other Scout; no matter what social class the other belongs."
Anything more against the established order of things could hardly be imagined in class-conscious Edwardian Britain - but the full implications of the statement were perhaps not recognised until only a few years later when Scouting had spread across the globe. There were Scouts of every colour and creed imaginable. It was not just classism that was under attack, but racism too. To make it perfectly clear that B-P was talking about being a friend to 'every other Scout', the final phrase was changed to:
"... No matter what colour, class or creed the other may belong"
From the standpoint of the twenty-first Century, the page on Continence - a euphemism for masturbation or 'self-abuse' as it was called in those days, seems to invite ridicule, yet was in tune with the 'you will go blind' mainstream view of the day. One page out of 400 should not be allowed to undermine the central message of the book. In terms of health advice alone there is much that, in the span of over nine decades since the book was published, has moved from the 'crackpot' to the now currently-fashionable! B-P, for example, was prophetic in his opposition to smoking - at the time when few were opposed the habit. He been had associated with anti-smoking organisations before he wrote Scouting for Boys, and he was emphatic.
"A scout does not smoke."
This seems ironic when one reads of claims made today against tobacco companies because the smokers had "never been told smoking was harmful". Had the litigants but read Scouting for Boys they would have been given a plethora of valid reasons why smoking is injurious to health!
When B-P talked about 'Peace Scouting' he said it was to be achieved through training in 'Scoutcraft'. The 'craft' most evident in Scouting for Boys is that of Camping. To misquote an old Scoutism, the 'out' B-P put in 'Scout' refers to the 'outdoors'. In the year 2000, the Scout Association commissioned a major survey amongst young people in and out of the Movement. Their overwhelming response when they asked about what their expectations were on joining the Scouts, was to go camping. Of those who had left the organisation prematurely, the overwhelming majority said that that they had left because their section did not go camping often enough. It is true that today a privileged majority holiday further from home than ever before, yet it is still just as true that most of our young people would benefit immensely from being part of an organisation that properly introduces them to the skills of outdoor life. Indeed, it seems perverse that today's youngsters are educated to know more about environmental issues than any other generation, yet, unless they become Scouts, they have the least first-hand experience of it.
The Success of the Book
TO merely measure the success of Scouting for Boys in terms of sales, is a little like trying to equate the importance of The Beatles to pop music by knowing how many people went to see them at The Cavern. However, the statistics are in themselves impressive:
- Ist May, 1908: Published in book form, cloth bound by Horace Cox at 2s. and in paper-back, 1/-. It ran to four reprints in the first year.
- By 1927 it was in print in 27 countries outside those of the British Empire.
- In 1948, 500,000 copies were sold in Britain alone.
- Author E E Reynolds, B-P biographer and Scout historian, tells us in Boy Scout Jubilee that it was a best-seller between 1946 and 1954.
- Tim Jeal, one of B-P's strongest critics, admits that "Scouting for Boys has probably sold more copies than any other title in the 20th century, with the exception of the Bible."
In 1957, Pearson's printed a 'Centennial Edition' - marking the 100-year anniversary of B-P's birth. Only in 1967 did Pearson's admit that the sales were declining. A sixty-year life span for a world best seller - but though now the book itself is an historical artefact, its significance continues to throw up amazing statistics - try putting the word 'Scout' or 'Baden-Powell' into any Internet Search Engine.
Of all the papers that reviewed the work at the time of its publication, the Daily Graphic was the most prophetic:
"All can help ... This is a kind of snowball to which nobody could object."
The snowball was rolling, and it has never stopped. The millions of former and present members of the Scout Association world-wide are the true 'success indicators' of the book which started "Scouting for Boys".
The Latest Edition
EARLY in 2004, a reprint of the original 1908 edition of Scouting For Boys was published. Whilst applauding its excellent presentation, it's low price (less than £10 from Amazon) and of course its original content; I cannot feel so happy about the lengthy introduction by Elleke Boehmer, author of Empire, the National and the Postcolonial (2002), Colonial and Postcolonial Literature (1995) and Stories of Women. Ms Boehmer, I am sorry to say, has entirely missed the point. Instead of looking at Baden-Powell, the Victorian Soldier, and asking what it was in his 1907 writings that inspired a Movement which today has 27 million members nearly 150 years after his birth, this academic uses all the wiles of her 'Post-Colonial' training to point out the how very non p.c. in the year 2004 B-P's 1907 writings were. Oh, really? There might be some rationale in that if we were using the original Scouting for Boys as today's 'roadmap', but we have taken from it all that is relevant and moved on - a fact she doesn't appear to have noticed! She thoroughly deserved the very critical reviews her introduction received in the national press. I would go further and say it is a pity Ms Boehmer did not read the book! For example, B-P's use of the word 'Continence' and Ms Boehmer's understanding of it, as shown in her remarks about bodily orifices, do not match!
Baden-Powell's reputation and Scouting have nothing to fear from honest historical research and analysis at whatever depth. Ms Boehmer's work says a deal about the world she would like us to live in, without any attempt to understand just how revolutionary B-P's proposals were to the world which he lived. Unfortunately, present and future generations of readers will now be subject to her distorted analysis as long as this book survives on library shelves. I wonder if you, like me, feel it is time that this constant sniping away at a great man's works and reputation was challenged, and that for once a proper assessment of Baden-Powell and his life's-work be made. Would it be immodest to suggest that you could do worse than to start with these Pages?
The Latest 'Review'
A milestone was achieved on BBV Television on Thursday May 14th 2007, when Ian Hislop presented his hour long documentary on Scouting for Boys. Hislop, veteran of many a libel case, is well known as a witty but acerbic denunciator of 'the establishment' and so many a Scouting aficionado must have trembled at the treatment he was likely to hand out to one of the most famous and possibly the most lampooned book in the world, particularly as all other BBC broadcasts in this centennial year have been carping and times very derogatory towards the Founder of the Scouting Movement.
Right from the start Hislop in a quite endearing way made his viewers aware of all of the 'baggage' usually associated with the nearly 100 year old book and its famous author, but then, as the pundits and even the Scout Association itself have failed consistently to do other the last many years, clearly spelt our just why the book was a world best seller and that it had messages that are still very pertinent today. Hyslop quoted B-P's concern with disaffected youth, his atttempt to inculcate 'Citizenship' (now a government aim!), the provision of role models etc. And all this was done with a cheery admission that though he himself was not a Scout, Hyslop had found the book fascinating and I think found himself rather surprised to be agreeing with much of its central message.
The programme then used a series of 'experts' to provide the 'balance' so beloved of documentary makers. Paul Moynihan, the Association's archivist, guided Hislop through the actual handwritten manuscript of the book, but the greatest advocate for Scouting was B-P himself through the inclusion of footage of the great man, including the never to be forgotten sequence where B-P appeared to address Hyslop referring to him as "You - the ugly one in the corner over there."
Inevitably one of B-P's greatest 'character assassins' Jeal was allowed to have his say and came up with his same tired non-proven, largely irrelevant, 'insights' into B-P's sexuality. (See Milestones review of Jeal's book Baden-Powell for many examples of the way he provides, erroneous at worst - skewed at best, evidence that allows you to come to 'your own conclusion' that B-P was a repressed homosexual, a stance that he seems to be dropping by the day in favour of a straight charge of homosexuality.
Ms Elleke Boehmer - the editor of the most recent edition of Scouting for Boys was also invited to speak and thankfully refused to comment on B-P's 'sexuality', no doubt still conscious of the compreshensive howl of disapoval over her very long and 'policitally correct' analysis of the B-P book. She however still managed to convey her misguided allegation that B-P was fixated on 'orifices'!
Such was Hislop's good natured and even admiring treatment that the detractors views were, for a change, placed in the context of a positive appreciation of B-P and his works. Hislop actually stated that there were in fact Historians who disagreed with Jeal. Hooray! (Is Milestone's view getting through at last?)
Hislop's refreshing approach was such that I find it difficult to be critical of him. Well almost! Towards the end of the transmission we find him standing outside a newsagents and turning directly to the camera makes the most outrageous suggestion of the broadcast,
"If Baden-Powell were alive to day he would not be allowed to be a Scout Leader!"
What!? The message is further rammed home on the prominent plackard which read "B-P Perv". This really was not at all in keeping with the rest of the programme - it was a cheap jibe and not at all funny- especially to parents of the 29 million children in the world who entrust their children to B-P's memory. These millions of present-day Scouts would I am sure add a final criticism of the programme - they received no mention! Their vast numbers, diversity, and the modern programme of training they receive, all inspired by the book the programme was meant to be about, was sadly lacking.
It is not fair however to finish on such a downbeat note. In the main Hislop's programme was like a breath of fresh air, and simply the best programme on the history of Scouting made in recent years. At least two and half cheers!