Policing the Great Plains


Policing the Great Plains

Rangers, Mounties, and the North American Frontier, 1875-1910

Andrew R. Graybill

294 pages
25 Illus., 3 maps


November 2007


$35.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.

In the late nineteenth century, the Texas Rangers and Canada’s North-West Mounted Police were formed to bring the resource-rich hinterlands at either end of the Great Plains under governmental control. Native and rural peoples often found themselves squarely in the path of this westward expansion and the law enforcement agents that led the way. Though separated by nearly two thousand miles, the Rangers and Mounties performed nearly identical functions, including subjugating Indigenous groups; dispossessing peoples of mixed ancestry; defending the property of big cattlemen; and policing industrial disputes. Yet the means by which the two forces achieved these ends sharply diverged; while the Rangers often relied on violence, the Mounties usually exercised restraint, a fact that highlights some of the fundamental differences between the U.S. and Canadian Wests. Policing the Great Plains presents the first comparative history of the two most famous constabularies in the world.

Author Bio

Andrew R. Graybill is an assistant professor of history at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


"Graybill may be an academic, but his accessible and breezy writing style is anything but. Policing the Great Plains should have popular appeal on both sides of the 49th parallel and will challenge widely held beliefs. It is thoroughly researched, amply endnoted, and contains an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources."—Mark Dworkin, Wild West Historical Association Journal

"Relevant issues, fascinating changes, solid research, and insightful views make this work one that will help quiet a perennial question: What ever happened to frontier history?"—Richard A. Van Orman, Journal of American History

"Fascinating and important."—Sheila McManus, Western Historical Quarterly

"By identifying the common threads that unite the histories of the Rangers and Mounties, as well as the disparate strands that set them apart, Graybill's study underscores the value of comparative history."—Michel Hogue, Great Plains Quarterly

"The is much to be learned by Graybill's comparative approach not only about police units but about frontier governments and the emergence of plains statehood. This is an enjoyable study, easy to read and well worth the investment. It should be on the shelves of every western American historian."—Gary Clayton, Montana, the Magazine of Western History

"[Graybill's] work emerges as one of the most carefully crafted examples of comparative and transnational history published in recent years, and it stands as a model study for the other frontier law enforcement agencies around the world."—Michael L. Tate, Journal of Military History

Table of Contents



List of Illustrations


Introduction: “Similar Organizations in Other Parts”


Chapter 1: Instruments of Incorporation


Chapter 2: Subjugating Indigenous Groups


Chapter 3: Dispossessing Peoples of Mixed Ancestry


Chapter 4: Defending the Cattleman’s Empire


Chapter 5: Policing the Industrial Frontier


Epilogue: “Deeds, Real and Imagined”







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