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Imperialists and Boy Scouts

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So nice that one does not have to be entirely accurate to write for Yale.


"Baden-Powell borrows the uniform of the Boy Scouts from the frontier uniform as he imagined it in America--the cowboy hat, the flannel shirt, their neckerchief, the short pants."


Ah yes, the American cowboy or frontier scout in his short pants. ^___^ D Boone kilt a bar -- in knickers. BP drew so many of those imaginary Westerners. ^____^ Actually, and this would have fit the "expert's" prejudices even more, the shorts came from the British MILITARY (gasp!)



"Now, there had been groups of frontier-inspired youth organizations that existed in Scotland, particularly. They're called things like The Sons of Daniel Boone, The Woodcraft Indians, The Boys' Brigade in Glasgow in 1883. Some were church sponsored."


The Boys Brigades were, as a general rule, more like ROTC than the Woodcraft Rangers or Sons of Daniel Boone, those famous Scots organizations for British imperialists. LOL


"William "Wild Bill" Cody, from my wife's state of Nebraska, had killed thousands of buffalo. He had dueled. The duels that they do with the German dueling fraternities, you've got the equivalent in Dodge City, and all of this, where you're dueling, and the classic kind of Clint Eastwood western. He'd killed thousands of buffalo, dueled, and he's a killer and scalper of Indians. He was his own publicist and he had enormous influence in Britain. At the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, he kills Indian Chief Yellow Hand."


Ah yes, The Little Big Horn. So hard to keep those battles straight when you're a top professor at Yale.



"Now, again, the British newspapers covered another siege which ends rather badly, which is at Khartoum, with the death of Charles Chinese Gordon. He was called Chinese Gordon because he slaughtered the Chinese, and he gets his at Khartoum."


Gordon was famously "Chinese Gordon" because the Emperor -- the very Chinese Emperor -- placed him in effective command of a Chinese army (The Ever-Victorious Army") that was, in fact, fighting other Chinese. So the "expert" is close, but distorts the facts.


Above all, he clearly relied on secondary sources for BP's thinking, rather than read what the man wrote. Otherwise, he might not have missed the express distinction between Boy Scouts - "peace scouting" in BP's own, repeated words -- and the war-training organization he imagines.


But facts do so get in the way of a good rant.

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What school does this guy teach at?


When I was in grad school, I was taught that you need to have ALL of your acts straight before writing or speaking them. The reason being that if someone can spot one error in your writing or speech, what other is the writer or speaker making?


I tore apart one respected revisionist historian in one of my papers simply because I spotted a few minor errors in book I was critiquing. Again the theme being, if these simple commonly known errors are in this work, what else is he making up?

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Eagle92, "What school does this guy teach at? When I was in grad school, I was taught that you need to have ALL of your acts straight before writing or speaking them."


OK, didn't you notice the link to the transcript in the OP? I'll give you a hint: "yale.edu". It's a 'Ph.D. mill' in New Haven, CT. ;)

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I used to work in Academia. I think a PhD is a method where you take a bright person with a good mind and ruin them. In order to find a virgin topic to become an expert in you have to do so many contortions it seems like you become less and less relevant. We used to joke it would be better to have two masters and carve out your own niche that way.


Of course in many departments no PhD no tenure. And yes getting tenure is highly political. (not just a conservative-liberal thing either)


I do think that scouting has imperialist routes but that is just part of our heritage. He was an officer of the british empire. Old BP was pretty enlightened for his day. I think his open mindiness and positive faith in the youth of the world was why Scouting became so popular in so many countries.



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Good line. What do I know I never got tenure. I used to sit in on some nasty faculty meetings. I used to tell some of them "you know anywhere else they expect you to put in 40 hours a week". I was a young smart ass. Some of the old guys didn't trust me because I didn't drink during class or sleep with the more comely students.


There's some great PhD's guys, the ones who really know their stuff and like to share it. I was partial to the Biologists. In general I think the sciences and engineering were more relevant than the humanities.

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Yeah, the guy got some facts incorrect - it's Buffalo Bill Cody, not Wild Bill Cody (it was Wild Bill Hitchcock), Chief Yellow Hand (Yellow Hair - but often misidentified as Yellow Hand) wasn't killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn, but he was killed by Cody in 1876 shortly after the battle of Little Big Horn at the Battle of Warbonnet Creek, and Yellow Hand is thought to have been at Little Big Horn.


"Chinese" Gordon was a name given to him by the British public after he returned from China - and the war in China was essentially a civil war so he was, indeed, involved in skirmishes that killed Chinese. Why was he given the name "Chinese' Gordon? Some say because he had command of a Chinese army, some say because of his success in China, and some say because he was known as a killer of Chinese. Given that Merriman is a professor of European history, he likely has sources at his disposal that isn't Wikipedia.


And he is a professor of European history - not American history - so we should consider that when criticizing him for getting some aspects of frontier history wrong - it's doubtful most Americans know much about Buffalo Bill Cody other than that he had his famous show.


Sure, knickers weren't American Frontier, but BP hadn't visited the American Frontier, and as was stated, it based on what BP THOUGHT was being worn on the American frontier, not what he KNEW - so I can let that slide.


The Sons of Daniel Boone and the Woodcraft Rangers may not have been in Scotland, but the Boys Brigade was (and if you look at what they were doing, you'll find similarities to Scouting) - and could reasonably be assumed to be the forerunner of all of the youth movements that came later (BP was a part of the Boys Brigade at one point, it helped convince him that a Scouting group was feasible). Keep in mind, this is a transcript of a speech - Merriman may, or may not, have reviewed it after it was transcribed. Take a look at the criticized quote:


""Now, there had been groups of frontier-inspired youth organizations that existed in Scotland, particularly."


Now move the comma from between Scotland and Particularly to between Existed and In thusly:


"Now, there had been groups of frontier-inspired youth organizations that existed, in Scotland particularly."


And the emphasis of the sentence changes from there were organizations that existed in Scotland to there were organizations that existed, including in Scotland. Change that emphasis, by a simple matter of moving one comma, and what follows is perfectly reasonable. It is as reasonable to believe there is a transcription error than to believe there isn't.


So sure, there are some errors that crop up - but the numbers of errors don't take away from the main thesis - that the Scouting movement was born during a period of Imperialism, and while BP's later writings, after he retired from the military, seek to make his scouts to be a "peace" organization, the ideas did come from his period during the Boer Wars and his worries about how ill-prepared British Youth were to continue the quest for British glory.


That Scouting emerged from an imperialistic period doesn't take anything away from Scouting at all - it's part of the history of the times - we should be celebrating that Scouting survived without trying to deny history to do it.(This message has been edited by calicopenn)

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Most Americans don't know much about our civil war, much less a civil war in China. But most Americans don't hold themselves out as experts.


Lots of literature on the Taiping Rebellion, but everything I have read is written by non-Chinese, so a point-of-view that is pretty important is not fully represented (or worse) in understanding a civil war that cost 20-30,000,000 lives, give or take a few million. Gordon was hardly the only colorful character.


Didn't know the Sons of Daniel Boone and Woodcraft Indians existed in Scotland (the comma and all that), but one learns something every day, or should.


Just how do we know that BP imagined western scouts and pioneers in shorts? Did BP say so or draw them as such?


Any basis at all for the theory that BP wanted shorts as part of the Boy Scout uniform due to some idea about the western scouts? Inquiring minds want to know.


As for why the popular press in the UK called Gordon "Chinese Gordon," calling him that for slaughter rather than the fact that he became a penny press hero in China can be filed under: "Axes, grinding of." I mean isn't Eisenhower famous for slaughtering Germans?

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Thanks Calico for some great things I'll probably forget in a few weeks. Sorry, it's just one of those things, at least that's how I try to explain it to my wife. ;)

The value of scouting today, as you note, does not depend on its roots in imperialism or lack thereof. It's like saying that because my family helped fight a war in order to end slavery, that somehow endows me with some extra (and undeserved) quality, one way or the other. My personal place in life does not depend on those events (but it's nice to know what happened). Ho hum.

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"The value of scouting today, as you note, does not depend on its roots in imperialism or lack thereof. "




My last name is Fisher...which at one time generations ago was Fischer...which is of German descent. My grandfather was part German and part French.



My grandmother was part English and part German.


I am about as German as a box of Mac Donald's chicken nuggests.


Where my ancestry began or where it is from has absolutely nothing to do ith who or what I am today, my views on life or anything I do.


I am 100% AMERICAN, patriotic to the bone , and have no German or European ways of thinking short of enjoying a good ole brat cooked on a grill with mustard on it and a nice cold Coke.


Now, lets assume a 3rd person's line of thinking is that all German were Nazis and were completely and deeply rooted in those beliefs.


That person could write 20 books about why I am a Nazi because of a handfull of whatever reasons they want.


Just because it is that person's veiwpoint and becuse that is what they think does not make it any more credible or accurate.


But let's go out on a limb...suppose my great grandfather was a die hard Nazi ..that still does not mean a thing when it comes to my beliefs, my lifestyle ort anything at all about me.


So were B oy Scouts Imperialists back..way back in the day?




WEll, I don't care and it doesn't make a difference to me.



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