Scouting, also known as the Scout Movement, is a worldwide youth movement with the stated aim of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, that they may play constructive roles in society.
Scouting began in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell, Lieutenant General in the British Army, held the first Scouting encampment on Brownsea Island in England. Baden-Powell wrote the principles of Scouting in Scouting for Boys (London, 1908), based on his earlier military books, with influence and support of Frederick Russell Burnham (Chief of Scouts in British Africa), Ernest Thompson Seton of the Woodcraft Indians, William Alexander Smith of the Boys' Brigade, and his publisher Pearson. During the first half of the 20th century, the movement grew to encompass three major age groups each for boys (Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Rover Scout) and, in 1910, a new organization, Girl Guides, was created for girls (Brownie Guide, Girl Guide and Girl Scout, Ranger Guide).
The movement employs the Scout method, a program of informal education with an emphasis on practical outdoor activities, including camping, woodcraft, aquatics, hiking, backpacking, and sports. Another widely recognized movement characteristic is the Scout uniform, by intent hiding all differences of social standing in a country and making for equality, with neckerchief and campaign hat or comparable headwear. Distinctive uniform insignia include the fleur-de-lis and the trefoil, as well as merit badges and other patches.
In 2011, Scouting and Guiding together had over 41 million members worldwide. The two largest umbrella organizations are the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), for boys-only and co-educational organizations, and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), primarily for girls-only organizations but also accepting co-educational organizations. The year 2007 marked the centenary of Scouting world wide, and member organizations planned events to celebrate the occasion.
As a military officer, Baden-Powell was stationed in British India and Africa in the 1880s and 1890s. Since his youth, he had been fond of woodcraft and military scouting, and—as part of their training—showed his men how to survive in the wilderness. He noticed that it helped the soldiers to develop independence rather than just blindly follow officers' orders.
In 1896, Baden-Powell was assigned to the Matabeleland region in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as Chief of Staff to Gen. Frederick Carrington during the Second Matabele War, and it was here that he first met and began a lifelong friendship with Frederick Russell Burnham, the American born Chief of Scouts for the British. This would become a formative experience for Baden-Powell not only because he had the time of his life commanding reconnaissance missions into enemy territory, but because many of his later Boy Scout ideas took hold here. During their joint scouting patrols into the Matobo Hills, Burnham began teaching Baden-Powell woodcraft, inspiring him and giving him the plan for both the program and the code of honor of Scouting for Boys. Practiced by frontiersmen of the American Old West and Indigenous peoples of the Americas, woodcraft was generally unknown to the British, but well known to the American scout Burnham. These skills eventually formed the basis of what is now called scoutcraft, the fundamentals of Scouting. Both men recognised that wars in Africa were changing markedly and the British Army needed to adapt; so during their joint scouting missions, Baden-Powell and Burnham discussed the concept of a broad training programme in woodcraft for young men, rich in exploration, tracking, fieldcraft, and self-reliance. It was also during this time in the Matobo Hills that Baden-Powell first started to wear his signature campaign hat like the one worn by Burnham, and it was here that Baden-Powell acquired his Kudu horn, the Ndebele war instrument he later used every morning at Brownsea Island to wake the first Boy Scouts and to call them together in training courses.
Three years later, in South Africa during 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 Baden-Powell's struggle to hold Mafeking through newspapers, and when the siege was broken, he had become a national hero. This rise to fame fueled the sales of a small instruction book he had written about military scouting, Aids to Scouting.
On his return to England, he noticed that boys showed considerable interest in the book, which was 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, 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 (from boy's schools in the London area and a section of boys from the Poole, Parkstone, Hamworthy, Bournemouth, and Winton Boys' Brigade units) 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 Boy Scouts.
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 co-educational.
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 exists in 2007, from basic to program-specific, including the Wood Badge training.
U.S. President Calvin Coolidge greeting 1500 Boy Scouts making an annual pilgrimage to the Capitol, 1927
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 of Scouting.
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 Scout 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 permits variations to its Promise, in order to accommodate different religious obligations. 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.