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“Be Prepared!” (But Not Too Prepared)

Scouting, Soldiering, and Boys’ Roles in World War I

Lucy Andrew

Keywords: Baden-Powell; body image; Boy Scout movement; British manliness; physical deterioration; The Scout; Scouting for Boys; World War I

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.

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