Scouting began in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell, a retired Lieutenant General in the British Army, held the first Scouting encampment at Brownsea Island, England. He was at that time a good friend of William Alexander Smith, founder of the Boys’ Brigade. Currently Scouting and Guiding have over 38 million members in 217 countries and territories represented through several different Scouting associations at the international level. The works of Ernest Thompson Seton and Daniel Carter Beard were very influential in the early development of Scouting as well as the basis of the Traditional Scouting movement that has become very significant in the last several years. In many countries, Scouting has become a signifcant part of popular culture.
Baden-Powell founded the Scouting movement in 1907 in the United Kingdom. He also introduced the parallel movement for girls, the Girl Guides, in 1910 with the aid of his sister Agnes Baden-Powell. (The Guides are known as the Girl Scouts of the USA in the United States.)
The seeds of the idea of Scouting began during the Siege of Mafeking, South Africa, during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, where Baden-Powell served as commanding officer. Baden-Powell successfully defended the town against the Boers (later known as Afrikaners), who outnumbered his troops eight to one. Volunteer boys in the town were formed into the Mafeking Cadet Corps, to help support the troops by carrying messages, which freedup men for military duties and kept the boys occupied during the long siege. The boys acquitted themselves well, helping in the successful defence of the town (1899-1900) over several months. Each Cadet Corps member received a badge, a combination of a compass point and a spearhead. This logo was similar to the fleur-de-lis that Scouting later adopted as its international symbol.
As a result of his status as a national hero, acquired as a result of his determined and successful defence of the town of Mafeking, Baden-Powell’s military training manual, Aids to Scouting (written in 1899) became something of a best-seller and was used by teachers and youth organizations.
In 1906, Ernest Thompson Seton sent Baden-Powell a copy of his book entitled The Birchbark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians. Seton, a British-born Canadian living in the United States, subsequently met Baden-Powell, and they shared ideas about youth training programs.
Baden-Powell was encouraged to re-write Aids to Scouting to suit a youth readership. By 1907 he had finished a draft called Boy Patrols. The same year, to test some of his ideas, he gathered together 21 boys of mixed social background and held a week-long camp, beginning August 1, on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset, England. His organizational method, now known as the Patrol System, 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, having his draft publication and a successful camp behind him, Baden-Powell went on an extensive speaking tour arranged by his publisher, Pearsons, to promote his forthcoming book. Beginning in January 1908 it initially appeared as six installments in a boys’ fortnightly magazine. The parts were subsequently published in book form as Scouting for Boys, now commonly considered the first version of the Boy Scout Handbook.
At the time Baden-Powell intended that the book would provide ideas for established organizations, in particular the Boys’ Brigade in which he assisted their founder William A. Smith for some time. However, boys spontaneously formed Scout patrols and flooded Baden-Powell with requests for assistance. He encouraged them, and Scouting developed by the weight of its own momentum. As the movement grew Sea Scout, Air Scout and other specialised units were added to the program options.
Baden-Powell could not singlehandedly advise all the youth who requested his assistance. To provide for adult leadership, proper training was required. The Wood Badge course was developed to recognize adult leadership training. In 1919 Gilwell Park near London was purchased as an adult training site and scouting campground. Baden-Powell also wrote a book for the assistance of Leaders entitled Aids to Scoutmastership, and others for the use of new sections that were formed later, such as Rovering to Success for Rover Scouts in 1922.
The members of a small number of Scout groups have the right to wear a green scarf/neckerchief in recognition of their membership of those groups founded in 1908.
Scouting began to spread throughout Great Britain and Ireland soon after the publication of Scouting For Boys. The Boy Scout movement swiftly established itself throughout the British Empire. The first recognized overseas unit was chartered in Gibraltar in 1908, followed quickly by 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 of the British Dominions to have a recognized scouting program. The first Scout rally was held at the Crystal Palace, London, in 1910. It attracted 10,000 boys, as well as a number of girls, who turned out for this exhibition of scouting. By 1910 India, Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, France, Russia, Finland, Germany, Norway, Mexico, Argentina, Greece and the United States had Boy Scouts.