Dr Steve Hewitt MA, PhD

Dr Steve Hewitt

Department of History
Senior Lecturer in American and Canadian Studies

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Hewitt is on study leave for the 2016/17 academic year.

I’m a British/Canadian academic interested in security and intelligence in the past and present and in a US/UK/Canada context.  My work has covered a range of topics, such as state surveillance against Canadian universities, UK and US counter-terrorism, a history of informants, and the world's most famous police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 


  • BA (Wilfrid Laurier)
  • MA, PhD (University of Saskatchewan


I did my graduate work at the University of Saskatchewan and taught there and at the University of Indianapolis before coming to Birmingham. I’ve written several books and articles related to security and intelligence, such as the history of Canadian policing and security, counter-terrorism in the UK since 9/11, and the use of informers by the police and intelligence services. Due to the nature of my work, I’ve appeared extensively in the media, including on BBC Radio and Television, CBC Television and Radio.


  • Introduction to Canadian Studies (1st year)
  • Research Skills (1st year)
  • Canada and the U.S. Compared (2nd year)
  • Terrorism in America: A History (2nd year)
  • America in the World: Hard and Soft Power since 1945 (2nd year)
  • U.S. Intelligence and International History Since 1945 (2nd year)
  • U.S. Foreign Policy and Terrorism (final year and post-grad)
  • Anti-Americanism (final year and post-grad)

Postgraduate supervision

I’m interested in supervising MA and PhD students doing topics related to security and intelligence, counter-terrorism, anti-Americanism, and Canadian history and politics.


Counter-terrorism and terrorism

One of my current teaching and research interests relates to counterterrorism and terrorism. My book The British War on Terror: Terrorism and Counterterrorism on the Home Front since 9-11 was published in January 2008. I have also done research related to American counterterrorism policy, specifically the State Department's Rewards for Justice program, the origins of which lie in 1984 and the Reagan administration. This interest emanates from research on state informers that I describe below. I am currently interested in working on a history of domestic British counter-terrorism. 

Security and intelligence

In January 2010, my new history of informers was published. Even before September 11, books and popular culture have focused on technology as being the chief threat to civil liberties through state and private surveillance. Lost in the shuffle has been the human factor, namely the reality that some individuals actively assist the state, be it in police forces or intelligence services, by supplying information on others. The book is entitled Snitch!: A History of the Modern Intelligence Informer. My previous work looked at the history of state surveillance in a Canadian context, in particular the spying by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Canadian universities for over eighty years.

Canadian security and intelligence and Canadian studies

In collaboration with Professor Christabelle Sethna of the Institute of Women’s Studies at the University of Ottawa, I am working on a project entitled “Sex Spying” that will investigate state surveillance in Canada of women’s organizations from the 1960s until the 1980s. We are currently under contract by McGill-Queen's University Press to produce a monograph on the topic. Eventually, we hope to broaden this project into a comparative examination of state surveillance of women’s organizations in both Canada and the U.S.


As a Canadian I am, according to historian Frank Underhill, "the first anti-American, the model anti-American, the archetypal anti-American, the ideal anti-American as he exists in the mind of God." Thus, by birth I have an interest in this topic, as I do with the wider nature of Canadian-American relations. Of particular interest to me in terms of research is not just anti-Americanism, but the negative response by some in the United States or elsewhere to criticism of the U.S. I call this anti-Anti-Americanism (© Steve Hewitt) and I am interested in the gendered and ideological nature of this backlash against the backlash.

Other activities

In April 2011, I became the president of the British Association for Canadian Studies.



  • Snitch!: A History of the Modern Intelligence Informer (New York and London: Continuum, 2010).
  • The British War on Terror: Terrorism and Counterterrorism on the Home Front since 9/11   (New York and London: Continuum, 2008).
  • Riding to the Rescue: The Transformation of the Mounted Police in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1914-1939 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006).
  • With Reg Whitaker, Canada and the Cold War (Toronto: James Lorimer and Company, 2003).
  • Spying 101: The RCMP’s Secret Activities at Canadian Universities, 1917-1997 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002).

Articles and chapters in books

  • With Christabelle Sethna, “Sex Spying: The RCMP Framing of English-Canadian Women’s Liberation Groups During the Cold War,” in Dominique Clement, Lara Campbell, and Gregory Kealey, eds., Debating Dissent: Canada and the 1960s (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, forthcoming 2011).
  • ‘American Counter-Terrorism through the Rewards for Justice Program, 1984-2009,’ in Asaf Siniver, ed., Terrorism and Counter-terrorism in the Post-9/11 Era (London: Routledge, 2010). (London: Routledge, 2010).
  • With Scott Lucas, ‘All the Secrets that Are Fit to Print? The Media and US Intelligence Agencies Before and After 9/11,’ in Robert Dover and Michael S. Goodman, Spinning Intelligence: Why Intelligence Needs the Media, Why the Media Needs Intelligence (London: Hurst & Company, 2009), 105-116.
  • With Christabelle Sethna, ‘Clandestine Operations: The Vancouver Women’s Caucus, the Abortion Caravan, and the RCMP,’ Canadian Historical Review, vol. 90, no. 3 (September 2009), 463-95.
  • ‘“Strangely Easy to Obtain”: Canadian Passport Security, 1933-73,’ Intelligence and National Security, vol. 23, no. 3 (June 2008), 381-405.
  • ‘Policing the Promised Land: The RCMP and Negative Nation-Building in Alberta and Saskatchewan in the Interwar Period,’ in The Prairie West as Promised Land, by R. Douglas Francis and Chris Kitzan (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2007), 313-32.
  • ‘The Police and Professoriate,’ in Historical Identities: The Professoriate in Canada, eds. Paul Stortz and Lisa Panayotidis (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006).
  • ‘Sunday Morning Subversion: The Canadian Security State and Organized Religion in the Cold War,’ in Love, Hate, and Fear: Canada in the Cold War, ed. Richard Cavell (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004).
  • ‘“While Unpleasant It Is a Service to Humanity”: The RCMP’s War on Drugs in the Interwar Period,’ Journal of Canadian Studies, vol. 38, no. 2 (Spring 2004), 80-104.
  • ‘Reforming the Canadian Security State: The RCMP Security Service and the “Key Sectors” Program,’ Intelligence and National Security, vol. 17, no. 4 (winter 2002), 165-184.
  • ‘“Information Believed True”: RCMP Security Intelligence Activities on Canadian University Campuses and the Controversy Surrounding Them, 1961-1971,’ Canadian Historical Review, vol. 81, no. 2 (June 2000), 191-228.
  • ‘Royal Canadian Mounted Spy: The Secret Life of John Leopold/Jack Esselwein,’ Intelligence and National Security, vol. 15, no. 1 (Spring 2000), 144-168.
  • ‘Spying 101: The RCMP’s Secret Activities at the University of Saskatchewan, 1920-1971,’ in Whose National Security?, eds. Dieter Buse, Mercedes Steedman, and Gary Kinsman (Toronto: Between the Lines Press, 2000), 91-109.


American, British, and Canadian security and intelligence in the past and present, including counter-terrorism, policing, spying and surveillance in the form of human intelligence through informants and undercover agents; Canadian history and politics; anti-Americanism

Media experience

Steve has extensive experience as a commentator for the UK media, including on radio and television. Steve also regularly acts as a commentator for the Canadian media. This includes a wide range topics relating to security and intelligence, such as the history of Canadian policing and security, counter-terrorism in the UK since 9/11, and the use of informers by the police and intelligence services.

Related media experts

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office


US and UK domestic counter-terrorism in the past and present; US intelligence agencies; the war on terror; the use of informers and informing as a practice; anti-Americanism; Canadian history and politics