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Sons of the Empire

Sons of the Empire: The Frontier and the Boy Scout Movement, 1890-1918

Robert H. MacDonald
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 283
  • Book Info
    Sons of the Empire
    Book Description:

    MacDonald documents his study with a wide range of contemporary sources, from newspapers to military memoirs. Exploring the genesis of an imperial institution through its own texts, he brings new insight into the Edwardian age.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8009-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: A Scheme to Save the Empire
    (pp. 3-28)

    When Lieutenant-General Robert Baden-Powell launched the Boy Scout movement in 1908, he needed a hero his boys would respect. Like many others, he thought that Britain was in danger, for it seemed certain that she would soon be in the middle of a European war, and she was far from ready to fight. Her army was small and her navy under-equipped. Worse still, Baden-Powell worried that young Englishmen would prove themselves weaklings: he feared, in the language of the day, that they would fail ‘the supreme test of manhood’ in battle. He hoped that Scouting would make things right. He...

  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  6. PART ONE Scouting for Men

    • CHAPTER ONE The Legion That Never Was ’Listed
      (pp. 31-61)

      For the hundreds of thousands of young men who went out to the imperial frontier, life was rarely quite what they expected. Conditions were harsh arid the climate usually extreme; they might be confined to a life in barracks for months at a time, or isolated in a cabin throughout a cold, dark winter; they might have to endure the hardships of jungle heat and its awful humidity, or risk thirst in the desert. Wherever they went, it seemed, they were plagued with flies or mosquitoes; scorpions and snakes shared their beds. They would be lucky if they stayed healthy:...

    • CHAPTER TWO Buccaneers: The War Scouts
      (pp. 62-87)

      On 23 May 1896 Baden-Powell was on his way to the African frontier, riding in the Mafeking-Bulawayo coach, which as he wrote in his diary, was ‘a regular Buffalo-Bill-Wild-West-Dead-wood affair.’ With him were his commanding officer, Major-General Sir Frederick Carrington, and two of Carrington’s staff. They were headed for Matabeleland, where the Matabele (or Ndebele) were at war with the white settlers. The coach, a bone-shaking vehicle drawn by ten mules, lurched and pitched over the rocky track, the sun was hot, the flies ‘thick as dust,’ the mules pitifully weak. Baden-Powell was cheerful, for, as he said, the tedium...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Wolf That Never Slept: A Scout at Mafeking
      (pp. 88-114)

      In 1903 Baden-Powell was visiting Wales, where he was made a freeman of the city of Cardiff. He had become a hero at Mafeking; he was still a popular public figure. Promoted to major-general just after the relief, the youngest general in the army, and now appointed inspector general of cavalry, he toured up and down the country on official and private business, speaking to the public, to mayors and aldermen, to boys’ clubs, to regimental dinners. His message was the urgency of the dangers facing the nation, and the need to do something about them. Wherever he went, even...

  7. PART TWO Scouting for Boys

    • CHAPTER FOUR Zulu Warriors or ‘Red Indian’ Braves? The Frontier Spirit in Scouting for Boys
      (pp. 117-144)

      It was frequently said by his contemporaries that Baden-Powell had discovered the one thing which alone would make a youth movement successful: he remembered that boys loved adventure, and he had found a way to let them have fun in a world of their own. He brought the excitement of the frontier within their reach; he would let them join in the adult games of war. That Scouting was a means to an end was also recognized: the ultimate aim of Baden-Powell’s movement was to turn out good citizens, future soldiers who would stand by Britain in the coming crisis....

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Laws of the Jungle: Teaching Boy Scouts the Lessons of Good Citizenship
      (pp. 145-175)

      In the light of what was to become Baden-Powell’s most enduring creation – the well-mannered, helpful, and above all, obedient Boy Scout – there is considerable irony in his choice of the frontiersman as an ideal model of manhood. The frontiersman’s virtues, whatever they were, seemed to lie at the other end of the scale from the dutiful Scout: he was his own man; if he had an attitude to authority, it was one of distrust; and he did not take kindly to military discipline. Many who had met the frontiersman, and who had worked with him, were doubtful, and...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER SIX Mrs Britannia’s Youngest Line of Defence: Militarism and the Making of a National Symbol, 1908–1918
      (pp. 176-202)

      On 4 August 1912 a Boy Scout troop was sailing two miles off the Kent coast near the Thames estuary. Their cutter capsized in a squall, and nine boys, aged between eleven and fourteen, were drowned. The ‘Sheppey disaster’ was given widespread coverage in the national press, and soon began to assume a symbolic importance. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, ordered the destroyer hmsFerventto carry the dead boys back up the Thames to London, their coffins draped with Union Jacks on the open deck. The newspapers declared that Britain was in mourning for her lost sons;...

  8. CONCLUSION: Scouting and Myth
    (pp. 203-210)

    A myth has its own life. It is born, it thrives; it becomes weak; phoenix-like, it regenerates. In its strength, it seems to sweep all before it; as it dies, only old believers subscribe to its truths. It has an odd and often uneasy relationship with history, for it can create social reality; yet tested by the individual, it is easily found wanting. It can be killed and discredited, but hydra-like it sprouts new heads from the corpse.

    The frontier is still alive as an idea in the English-speaking world. It affects our sense of other people, and other places;...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 211-224)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-242)
  11. Appendices
    (pp. 243-254)
  12. Index
    (pp. 255-258)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)