The dark side of the rural idyll: Stories of illegal/illicit economic activity in the UK countryside

Peter Somerville, Robert Smith, Gerard McElwee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


In rural sociology and rural studies, rurality in many countries is commonly constructed as an idyllic space in which crime is perceived as an urban problem. In other countries, however, rurality is constructed as a place where the individual is vulnerable and the population is socially beyond the urban. This article questions the construction of rurality as idyllic by reporting on research in rural areas which demonstrates that crime, in particular illicit and illegal enterprise based crime, is becoming more prevalent in the UK countryside. In urban areas, illicit and illegal forms of entrepreneurship are distinctive in terms of how they are construed and enacted - so why would it not be similar in rural areas? The paper presents a theoretical framework based on the work of Ferdinand Tönnies which demonstrates that contemporary examples of roguery exist in the UK countryside. We make more visible what previously was invisible, or ignored in the literature. Five stories of illegal rural enterprise are presented which provide a counterargument to Mingay's rural idyll. Since illicit and/or illegal rural enterprise is under-researched this constitutes an original attempt to frame an emerging phenomenon of interest.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-228
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date7 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


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