Scout's outrage

October 26, 1995

As any Tom, Dick or Andrew Roberts can tell you, the way to get public and media attention for history is to lay into one of British history's traditional heroic figures. No surprise then that the forthcoming Channel Four programme on Baden-Powell, which implies that the stereotype of camp scout-masters may have some basis in the predilictions of their founder, has induced howls of outrage, serving the purposes of both programme-makers and tabloid critics. More surprising perhaps to hear Lord St John of Fawsley, master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, among the complainants.

Interviewed about the controversy on radio 4's Today programme, he at least sounded as though he meant what he was saying, and can be acquitted of the charge of circulation building. But the view that historians should not take potshots at established heroes is an interesting one from the head of an academic institution.

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