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

Somerville, Peter; Smith, Robert; McElwee, Gerard


Peter Somerville

Robert Smith

Gerard McElwee


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.


SOMERVILLE, P., SMITH, R. and MCELWEE, G. 2015. The dark side of the rural idyll: stories of illegal/illicit economic activity in the UK countryside. Journal of rural studies [online], 39, pages 219-228. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 7, 2015
Online Publication Date Feb 7, 2015
Publication Date Jun 30, 2015
Deposit Date Sep 19, 2016
Publicly Available Date Sep 19, 2016
Journal Journal of rural studies
Print ISSN 0743-0167
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 39
Pages 219-228
Keywords Ferdinand Tonnies; Roguery; Illegal rural enterprise; Illicit rural enterprise; Criminal entrepreneurship
Public URL


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