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Race Resistance and the Boy Scout Movement In British Colonial Africa

In British Colonial Africa

Timothy H. Parsons

Publication Year: 2004

Conceived by General Sir Robert Baden-Powell as a way to reduce class tensions in Edwardian Britain, scouting evolved into an international youth movement. It offered a vision of romantic outdoor life as a cure for disruption caused by industrialization and urbanization. Scouting's global spread was due to its success in attaching itself to institutions of authority. As a result, scouting has become embroiled in controversies in the civil rights struggle in the American South, in nationalist resistance movements in India, and in the contemporary American debate over gay rights.

In Race, Resistance, and the Boy Scout Movement in British Colonial Africa, Timothy Parsons uses scouting as an analytical tool to explore the tensions in colonial society. Introduced by British officials to strengthen their rule, the movement targeted the students, juvenile delinquents, and urban migrants who threatened the social stability of the regime. Yet Africans themselves used scouting to claim the rights of full imperial citizenship. They invoked the Fourth Scout Law, which declared that a scout was a brother to every other scout, to challenge racial discrimination.

Parsons shows that African scouting was both an instrument of colonial authority and a subversive challenge to the legitimacy of the British Empire. His study of African scouting demonstrates the implications and far-reaching consequences of colonial authority in all its guises.

Published by: Ohio University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xv

I FIRST STUMBLED ON this project during my dissertation research in Kenya in the early 1990s. As a Fulbright scholar, I had the option of sending a box of supplies to myself through the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. While filling out the standard customs declaration form, I noticed that the Kenyan...


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pp. xvii-xviii

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1. Introduction

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pp. 3-29

ON 25 FEBRUARY 2001 approximately ten thousand Scouts from around the world met in Nyeri, Kenya, at the tomb of Lord Robert Baden-Powell to honor him as the founder of the international Scout movement. From 1939 until his death in 1941, Baden-Powell lived out his waning years in...

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2. Scouting and Schools as Colonial Institutions

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pp. 30-71

IN LATE JULY 1907, Gen. Sir Robert Baden-Powell gathered a mix of twenty-two public school and working-class boys on Brownsea Island, off the coast of Dorset, to conduct the first experiment in Scouting. Baden-Powell, a hero of the South African War, used the expedition to try...

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3. Pathfinding in Southern Africa, 1908 - 45

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pp. 72-112

FORMAL AFRICAN SCOUTING in the Union of South Africa began at Grace Dieu Diocesan College in the early 1920s. Located roughly eighteen miles from Pietersburg in the northern Transvaal, the Anglican school trained African teachers. Informal European Scout troops in South Africa predated the...

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4. Scouting and the School in East Africa, 1910 - 45

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pp. 113-145

ALTHOUGH THERE WERE several significant experiments in adapted Scouting in East Africa in the interwar era, the 6th Nairobi troop at Kenya's Alliance High School (AHS) was one of the most accomplished formal Scout groups, African or otherwise, in the region. In 1928 school...

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5. Scouting and Independency in East Africa, 1946 - 64

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pp. 146-190

AS FORMAL AFRICAN SCOUTING grew in popularity and scope in postwar Kenya a number of troops approached the standards of Alliance High School's 6th Nairobi troop. The 2nd Fort Hall at the Church Missionary Society's Kahuhia mission station was one of the most active and...

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6. Scouting and Apartheid in Southern Africa, 1945 - 80

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pp. 191-236

IT BECAME MUCH HARDER to be an African Scout in South Africa after the Nationalist Party came to power in 1948. Disdained by the right-wing Afrikaner regime for its ties to the British Empire, Scouting also faced condemnation from Africans for its refusal to challenge the...

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7. Independence and After

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pp. 237-258

THE PROSPECT OF INDEPENDENCE, popularly known in Swahili as uhuru, and African majority rule put official Kenyan Scouting in a difficult position that typified the problems faced by territorial Scout associations throughout anglophone Africa. The Kenya Boy Scout Association...


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pp. 259


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pp. 261-298

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 299-315


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pp. 317-319

E-ISBN-13: 9780821441459
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821415962

Publication Year: 2004