The History of Scouts

Scouting is an old tradition- one that predates civilization. In fact, one can argue that scouting gave birth to society. Without the expansive natures of a bold few, men would still be living in caves. In primitive times, men scouted for food and water. But as agricultural techniques were mastered, scouting took on a new a form.

Early scouts were colonizers- men looking for booty and tributes. These scouts were ferocious and scrupulous. One can think of Christopher Columbus as popular example. 


We all have a dark past. Early scouts were colonizers.

As time went on, blunt colonization became unpopular and as the industrial roared, scouting took on a new form. Men began to scout countries using a more scientific approach. They surveyed the land, examined its raw materials, then exploited such findings. A good example is John Rhodes, a British scout who founded the diamond company DeBeers. Through clever propaganda and resource monopoly, Debeers convinced the public that diamonds were scarce.   


John Rhodes

The famous Rhodes scholarship was founded by the scout John Rhodes. 

Fun Fact: Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar.

As the industrial revolution continued, scouting became increasingly sophisticated. Private patrons and governments alike would hire scouts to study not just land texture but the social psychology of different populations. Then a giant hiccup occurred… the two World Wars.

World War I and World War II marked an important shift in scout practice. Due to the dire need for ground intelligence, the federal government established the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as an agency to coordinate espionage activities. The OSS later became the CIA. The U.S Navy, responsible for much of pre-assault reconnaissance at the time also established the Scouts and Raiders, which later form the revered Navy Seals. These two strategic moves shifted scouting from primarily a civilian activity to almost exclusively a government one. Scouting became a clandestine operation monopolized by the government. 


Scouting became primarily a government activity.

This photo shows a Marine Corps Force Recon operating. 

This brings us to today, the age of cities. Scouting has once again changed in form. They are now known as urban explorers. The semi-nomad and explorative instincts of these scouts has not changed, but their environment has. Colonizing is now illegal by international law, and exploitation faces the wrath of public opinion. With espionage being strictly a government monopoly, these urban explorers have nowhere to unleash their scouting instincts except for abandoned buildings. 

As fun as exploring these abandoned places can be (and trust me I know), I am asking fellow scouts to turn their gaze back to civilization.  Cities have grown enormously complex, and therefore scouting talent is needed to document and decipher them.

Cities also have many hidden treasures that are still undiscovered. Like the forefathers of scouting, we can still get rich exploring them.  

Some Notable Scouts

Neil Armstrong.jpg

Neil Armstrong.

Armstrong is the first scout to explore the moon. Many don't see astronauts as scouts but they are. In fact, the word astronaut literally means space sailor. Scouts of the future will explore and analyze planets, not abandoned territories in cities. 

Charles Darwin.jpg

Charles Darwin.

The first scout to use his explorations for major scientific discoveries. Similar to Armstrong, most folks don't realize that Darwin's theory was mostly developed from observation during his long travels. Darwin's expedition was a five year exploration.  

Gustave Le Bon.jpg

Gustave Le Bon.

Le Bon is known for his work on crowd psychology, but he was also a scout. He spend decades studying Arabia and parts of Africa. He was one of the first to use scouting as a serious technique for psychological and sociological study. His work on crowd psychology shows the superior results of this technique. 


Zheng He

Zheng He is an eunuch that explored much of India and the African Coast. Some even argue that he had traveled the Atlantic and discovered America before Columbus. Controversies aside, Zheng He is responsible for establishing China as the superpowers of the Indian ocean by establishing trade lines in the new area. This goes to show how much scouting plays a vital role in establishing new commerce.   

What have you discovered today?

James AllanScoutsComment