This article examines the shifting representation of the ideal of masculinity and boys’ role in securing the future of the British Empire in Robert Baden-Powell’s Boy Scout movement from its inauguration in 1908 to the early years of World War I. In particular, it focuses on early Scout literature’s response to anxieties about physical deterioration, exacerbated by the 1904 Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration. In Baden-Powell’s Scouting handbook, Scouting for Boys (1908), and in early editions of The Scout—the official magazine of the Scout movement—there was a strong emphasis on an idealized image of the male body, which implicitly prepared Boy Scouts for their future role as soldiers. The reality of war, however, forced Scouting literature to acknowledge the restrictions placed upon boys in wartime and to redefine the parameters of boys’ heroic role in defense of the empire accordingly.
Lucy Andrew is Lecturer in English Literature and Programme Leader of the English degree at University Centre Shrewsbury, part of the University of Chester. Her research interests are in children’s and young adult literature, and crime fiction and popular culture from the nineteenth century to the present day. She is the author of The Boy Detective in Early British Children’s Literature: Patrolling the Borders between Boyhood and Manhood (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and coeditor of Crime Fiction in the City: Capital Crimes (University of Wales Press, 2013) with Catherine Phelps. She is co-organizer of the Short Story Network with Dr. Vicky Margree (University of Brighton). E-mail: email@example.com