Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship may sound like a nice read but it’s actually a 1907 manual on how to breed spartan sociopaths.
Translated into 87 languages and selling over 150 million copies, the title from this gem written by Robert Baden-Powell seems innocuous enough. It seems that the children of the early 20th century were cut from a different cloth.
The Boy Scouts are actually modelled on the Mafeking Cadet Corps, a group of children who worked as messengers and lookouts during the second Boer War.
We had a look through the original 1907 edition – these are 10 genuine quotes that exemplify the baffling advice dished out to children 100 year ago:
1. On hearing better at night:
“…(to hear) the thud of a man’s footfall a long way off… open a knife with a blade at each end, stick one blade into the ground, hold the other carefully between your teeth…”
2. On not being a pussy:
“. .. always to sleep with your windows open, summer and winter and you will not catch a cold.”
3. On the devastating consequences of masturbation:
“… the reading of trashy books or looking at lewd pictures are very apt to lead a thoughtless boy into the temptation of self-abuse. This is a most dangerous thing for him… it tends to lower both health and spirits.”
4. On the dangers of alcoholism:
“there is nothing manly about getting drunk… There is only one cure for this disease, and that is – never to get it.”
5. On walking it off:
“…if you are in pain or trouble, make yourself smile at it. If you remember to do this, and force yourself, you will find it really does make a difference.”
6. Weird poo ultimatums:
“…clearing out all dirt matter from inside your stomach, which is done by having a “rear” daily, without fail…”
7. Cultural education:
“‘A Frenchman will take off his hat when he addresses a stranger… The Dutch fisherman, big and brawny as they are, take up the whole street when walking down it”
From here on they get a bit darker…
8. On playing around the railway lines:
“if the train is very close, lie flat between the rails… till the train passes over while everybody else will be running about screaming and excited and doing nothing.”
9. This cure for AIDs:
“…cleaning your skin helps to clean your blood. Doctors say that half the good of exercise is lost if you do not bath immediately after it”.
10. And on finding a man who has committed suicide:
“A tenderfoot [novice] is sometimes inclined to be timid about handling an insensible man or a dead man, or even of seeing blood. Well, he won’t be much use till he gets over such nonsense.”
Still think you have what it takes to be a boy scout?
What can you expect from an organization that was still handing out swastikas nearly a year into the second world war? Full copies of the book can be found at your favourite online retailer.