The History of the Scout Movment

The Scouting movement was founded by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, an officer in the British army, who became a national hero after he defended the African town of Mafeking for 7 months against the besieging Boer troops.

Upon Baden-Powell's return to England he found that many teenage boys were readingAids to Scouting, a book he wrote as a military manual whilst stationed in Africa during 1899. Baden-Powell was persuaded by leading figures in the youth movements to write a version of the book for boys. Before it was published, Baden-Powell took four patrols of boys aged 11-18 years old from different backgrounds to Brownsea Island in Poole Habour to try out his ideas.

The first camp on Brownsea Island, August 1907.

In 1908 Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys was published in 6 fortnightly installments and sold quickly (Scouting for Boys is the fourth best selling book of all time). Baden-Powell initially intended that the scheme outlined in Scouting for Boys to supplement the Boys Brigade and Boys Club youth groups. But boys who were not members of either organisation set themselves up as Patrols of Scouts, and found adults to train them. It was soon clear an organisation was needed to support the new patrols.

At the start of Scouting Baden-Powell was still an active army officer in the north of England well away from the heart of Scouting in London. So the  publishers of Scouting for Boys handled the initial membership and Scout Leaders were given a free rein with what they did as long as it followed the ideals of Scouting.

In 1910 Baden-Powell retired from the army to focus fully on the Scouting movement. He also carried out the annual census, which showed that over a 100,000 boys had joined the movement in the first 3 years. Also by 1910 Scouting had spread to 26 countries around the world. Baden-Powell started the Guide Girl movement, run by his sister and wife, following pressure for a separate organisation, he had originally wanted one movement for boys and girls, although in separate Troops.


Baden-Powell spent the rest of his life travelling the world organising Scout movements and attending World Jamborees. The first Jamboree was held in London in 1920 and have become a major part of international Scouting.

The first World Jamboree, 1920.

It was not only the sisters of Scouts that wanted to join in, the younger brothers of Scouts wanted to join in as well. The Scouting Association initially turned a blind eye to boys under 11 joining Troops or setting up their own unofficial Junior Troops. By 1914 it became clear that something needed to be done, so Baden-Powell oulined a scheme to train the Junior Scouts. Two years later he replaced the scheme with one called Wolf Cubs that was based on Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. The Wolf Cubs had their own uniform, motto, badges and sign to distinquish them from Scouts. In 1917 the Senior Scouts were set up for boys over 18 years old, the following year the name changed to Rover Scouts. The Rover Scouts focused it's programme on outdoor adventure & service.

A Wolf Cub Pack in 1918.

In 1941 Lord Baden-Powell passed away at his home in Kenya, he left one final message for all the Scouts around the world. At the time of his death there were 3.3 million members of the Scout movement around the world. Baden-Powell was the first and only Chief Scout of the World.

The Scout movement celebrated it's fiftieth birthday in 1957, by which time the movement's worldwide membership had grown to 7.5 million boys and girls.

In 1967 radial changes were made to the Boy Scout Association following the 1966 General Report. The word Boy was dropped from the Association's title as well as the Scout section, the Wolf Cubs became just the Cub Scouts. The upper age limit for Scouts was lowered to 16 and the Rover Scout were disbanded. A new section called Venture Scouts was formed for 16 to 20 year olds and the Baden-Powell Guild was started for members over 20 who were not leaders. As well as the names, there were changes to the uniforms and the training schemes for all the sections.

In the following years there were constant updates and changes to the training schemes, but the next big changes came in 1976 and 1982. Firstly in 1976 females were allowed to join Venture Units, this was the first time in the movements 69 years that young ladies were allowed to join, apart from being Leaders. Then in 1982 the groups were allowed to take in 6 to 8 year old boys in Beaver Colonies, these Colonies did not officially become part of the Scout Association until 1st April 1986. 

Beavers joined the Scout Association in 1986. 

The last major changes to the movement came in the late 1980's & early 1990's. The Uniform Review of the late 80's saw another change of the uniforms including the scrapping of the iconic caps & berets. Then in the 90's girls were finally allowed to join all sections of the Scout movement.

Mixed groups came in, in the 1990's.

In 2007 the Scout movement celebrated it's centenary with a massive World Jamboree in Essex attended by over 38,00 Scouts from 155 countries. A worldwide census was carried out as part of the centenary, which revealed that there were over 28 million members in 216 counties and territories across the globe.

Scouts celebrity the centenary at the 2007 World Jamboree.

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