There are more than 40 million Scouts, young people and adults, male and female, in over 200 countries and territories. Some 500 million people have been Scouts, including prominent people in every field.
All this began with 20 boys and an experimental camp in 1907. It was held during the first nine days of August in 1907 at Brownsea Island, near Poole in Dorset, England. The camp was a great success and proved to its organiser, Robert Baden-Powell, that his training and methods appealed to young people and really worked.
In January 1908, Baden-Powell published the first edition of “Scouting for Boys”. It was an immediate success and has since sold over 100 million copies, making it one of the best selling books of all time. Baden-Powell had only intended to provide a method of training boys, something that existing youth organisations such as the Boys’ Brigade and YMCA could adopt. To his surprise, youngsters started to organise themselves into what was to become one of the largest voluntary youth movements in the world.
Expansion of the Movement
The success of “Scouting for Boys” produced a Movement that quickly – automatically it seemed – adopted the name of The Boy Scouts. By 1909 “Scouting for Boys” had been translated into five languages, and a Scout rally in London attracted more than 11,000 Scouts. As a result of Baden-Powell taking a holiday in South America, Chile was one of the first countries outside Britain to begin Scouting. In 1910 he visited Canada and the United States where it had already started.
The coming of World War I in 1914 could have brought about the collapse of the Movement, but the training provided through the patrol system proved its worth. Patrol leaders took over when adult leaders volunteered for active service. Scouts contributed to the war effort in England in many ways; most notable perhaps were the Sea Scouts who took the place of regular coast-guardsmen, freeing them for service.
The first World Scout Jamboree took place in 1920 with 8,000 participants, and proved that young people from different nations could come together to share common interests and ideals. Since that first World Jamboree at Olympia in London, there have been 21 others at different locations.
During the Jamboree, the first World Scout Conference (then called “International Scout Conference”) was held with 33 National Scout Organizations represented. The Boy Scouts International Bureau, later to become the World Scout Bureau, was founded in London in 1920.
In 1922 the first World Scout Committee was elected at the 2nd International Conference in Paris, where 31 National Scout Organizations were represented. World membership was just over 1 million.
The Early Scout Programme
Scouting began as a programme for boys 11 to 18 years of age. Yet almost immediately others also wanted to participate. The Girl Guides programme was started in 1910 by Baden-Powell. His wife Olave, whom he married in 1912, became Chief Guide.
A Wolf Cub section was formed for younger boys. It used Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book”, to provide an imaginative symbolic framework for activities. For older boys, a Rover Scout branch was formed.
The World Wars
Between the two world wars Scouting continued to flourish in all parts of the world – except in totalitarian countries where it was banned. Scouting is voluntary and based on democratic principles.
During World War II, Scouts undertook many service tasks – messengers, firewatchers, stretcher-bearers, salvage collectors and so on. In occupied countries, Scouting continued in secret with Scouts playing important roles in the resistance and underground movements. After the war ended, it was found that the numbers of Scouts in some occupied countries had, in fact, increased.
The ’60s, ’70s and ’80s
Many countries gained their independence during these years. Scouting in developing countries gradually evolved to be a youth programme which was designed by Scout leaders in each country to better meet the needs of their communities.
Scouts, particularly in developing countries, became more involved with issues such as child health, low-cost housing, literacy, food production and agriculture, job skills training, etc.
Drug abuse prevention, life skills training, integration of the handicapped, environmental conservation and education, and peace education became issues of concern to Scouts around the world.
By the 1990s Scouting had been reborn in every country where it existed prior to World War II, and it started throughout the newly independent countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (formerly the USSR).
100 years and beyond
In 2007 the Movement celebrated its centenary – 100 years of Scouting. What started as a small camp on Brownsea Island is today a growing Movement with members in nearly every country in the world. Through its unique combination of adventure, education and fun, Scouting manages to continuously renew and adapt itself to a changing world and the different needs and interests of young people across the globe. In doing so it continues to be an inspiration for young people to become active local and global citizens, helping them in creating a better world.