Rural sociology is a field of sociology traditionally associated with the study of social structure and conflict in rural areas although topical areas such as food and agriculture or natural resource access transcend traditional rural spatial boundaries (Sociology Guide 2011). It is an active academic field in much of the world, originating in the United States in the 1910s with close ties to the national Department of Agriculture and land-grant university colleges of agriculture.
The sociology of food and agriculture is one focus of rural sociology, and much of the field is dedicated to the economics of farm production. Other areas of study include rural migration and other demographic patterns, environmental sociology, amenity-led development, public-lands policies, so-called "boomtown" development, social disruption, the sociology of natural resources (including forests, mining, fishing and other areas), rural cultures and identities, rural health-care, and educational policies. Many rural sociologists work in the areas of development studies, , , and environmental studies. Much of the research involves developing countries or the Third World.
Rural sociology was the first and for a time the largest branch of American sociology.
Histories of the field were popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
Rural sociology in Europe developed not in the old established universities but in the new countries that emerged after 1919 and were strongly influenced by the political philosophy of Agrarianism, which promoted the farmer as the strength of society. Czechoslovakia opened three research centers, and others opened in Romania and Yugoslavia.