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Biography & Autobiography Law Enforcement

Sam Steele

A Biography

by (author) Rod Macleod

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2018
Law Enforcement, General, Military
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2018
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2019
    List Price

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Sam Steele, “the man who tamed the Gold Rush,” had a high-profile public career, yet his private life has been closely protected. Sam Steele: A Biography follows Steele’s rise from farm boy in backwoods Ontario to the much-lauded Major General Sir Samuel Benfield Steele. Drawing on the vast Steele archive at the University of Alberta, this comprehensive biography vividly recounts some of the most significant events of the first fifty years of Canadian Confederation—including the founding of the North-West Mounted Police, the opening of the North through the Klondike, and Canada’s participation in the South African War—from the perspective of a policeman who became a military leader. Impeccably researched and accessibly written, Sam Steele is perfect for anyone interested in Canada’s early decades.

About the author

Rod Macleod, Professor Emeritus, was professor of History and Classics at the University of Alberta from 1969 until he retired in 2005. During his tenure he served as Chair of the Department of History and later as Associate Dean of Arts. He has written extensively on the history of Western Canada as well as Canadian legal and military history. His books include The Mounties and Prairie Fire: The 1885 North West Rebellion as well as The North West Mounted Police and Law Enforcement 1873-1905. Rod is the official historian for the University of Alberta. In that capacity he researched and wrote All True Things: A History of the University of Alberta, 1908 – 2008, published by the University of Alberta Press. He served two terms as the Alberta representative on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Rod Macleod lives in Edmonton.

Rod Macleod's profile page


  • Winner, AUPresses Book, Jacket, & Journal Show - Scholarly Typographic

Editorial Reviews

"This book is a detailed treatment of the entire life of Sam Steele, informed and enhanced by new information held within the Steele collection. The breadth of Steele’s accomplishments encompass the opening of the west and north as Canada grew into nationhood after confederation."

Michael Gates

"Focusing on its subject’s life and career, Sam Steele paints a thoughtful portrait of an interesting and important man that, like any good book, raises interesting and important questions.... [T]his biography is likely to remain the definitive work on Steele’s life."

Canadian Historical Review

"Rod Macleod has been thorough in his research, making extensive use of Samuel's diaries and personal papers now housed at the University of Alberta. The book is well written and places Steele in his proper role as Mounted Police frontiersman."

"This is a fine work that sheds light on many important events in the early decades of Canada. There is impressive nuance and detail here which show the diligent effort and dedication of the author. This is a good introductory book for those unfamiliar with Sam Steele and key episodes of Canadian national history after Confederation. It is a useful volume for those exploring the early days of the NWMP or the founding campaigns of the Canadian military. It is a revealing story of a talented, dedicated Canadian who always strove to do his best for his country." [Full review at]

Canadian Military History vol. 29, no.1

"The life and times of Sam Steele are once again captured in a well-written and fast-paced book. A pleasure to read, it was difficult to close once I began reading Rod Macleod’s contribution to Canadian history as revealed through the letters and diaries of this interesting figure…. [This] welcome addition to any Canadian Studies, police, or military history library is sure to develop interest in a number of episodes in Canada’s history between 1832 and 1919…. Macleod organises his material into eleven convenient chapters covering Steele’s life from his childhood years in Ontario until his last days in London, UK, and funeral in Winnipeg.” [Full review at]

British Journal of Canadian Studies, vol. 33, no. 1

"Macleod’s focus on Steele and his personal experiences is effectively used to paint a thorough and detailed picture of the man. Throughout the book, Macleod provides succinct, informative background sections on the North-West Rebellion, the Klondike gold rush, the origins of the Boer War, and other topics.... [The biography] will be approachable to general readers and valuable to scholars examining the events Steele participated in." [Full review at]

The Northern Review 51

"...Steele emerges as a three-dimensional character, much more lively and realistic, than the self-portrait earnestly provided in his autobiography, Forty Years in Canada.... Rod Macleod is to be warmly congratulated for his excellent biography of an important Anglo-Canadian public figure in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."

Donald B. Smith

"...Steele owed much of his career success to his simple approach to life—see what must be done, find the most practical way to do it, apply yourself with full energy and dedication.... Steele played a considerable role in a time full of huge change.... It’s a story worth telling. Macleod’s solid research and clear writing also make it a story worth reading." January 30, 2019 [Full article at]

Mark Lisac

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