07/13/07 - boy scouts

In today's excerpt - the Boy Scouts. British General Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, hero of the cricket fields and the Boer War, founds the Boy Scouts in 1907. Its purpose is to insure that Britain's boys are prepared for the military service necessary to rule the vast British Empire and stave off the perceived threat from other European nations:

"[According to Baden-Powell], 'We are all Britons, and it is our duty each to play in his place and help his neighbours. Then we shall remain strong and united, and then there will be no fear of the whole building, namely our great Empire, falling down because of rotten bricks in the wall. ... 'Country first, self second' should be your motto.' ...

"The scramble for Africa ... suddenly seemed a distant memory. It was the scramble for Europe, now fast approaching, that would determine the fate of the British Empire. Baden-Powell's response was to found ... the Boy Scouts, the most successful of all the period's attempts to mobilize youth behind the Empire. With its quirky mix of colonial kit and Kipling-esque jargon, the Scout movement offered a distilled and sanitized version of frontier life to generations of bored town-dwellers. Though it was undoubtedly good, clean fun—indeed its appeal soon spread it far beyond the boundaries of Empire—the political purpose of scouting was quite explicit in Baden-Powell's best-selling Scouting for Boys (1908):

" 'There are always members of Parliament who try to make the Army and the Navy smaller so as to save money. They only want to be popular with the voters of England, so that they and the party to which they belong may get into power. These men are called 'politicians.' They do not look to the good of their country. Most of them know and care very little about our Colonies. If they had had their way before, we should by this time have been talking French, and if they were allowed to have their way in the future, we may as well learn German or Japanese, for we shall be conquered by these."


Niall Ferguson


Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power


Penguin Books, Ltd


Copyright Niall Ferguson, 2002


216-217, 243-244
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