Rural sociology was a concept first brought by Americans in response to the large amounts of people living and working on the grounds of farms.  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.
The mission statements of university departments of rural sociology have expanded to include more topics, such as sustainable development. For example, at the University of Missouri the mission is:
"The Department of Rural Sociology at the University of Missouri employs the theoretical and methodological tools of rural sociology to address challenges of the 21st century – preserving our natural resources, providing safe and nutritious food for an expanding population, adapting to climate changes, and maintaining sustainable rural livelihoods."
The University of Wisconsin set up one of the first departments of rural sociology. It has now dropped the term "rural" and changed its name to the "Department of Community and Environmental Sociology." Similarly, the Rural Sociology Program at the University of Kentucky has evolved into the. "Department of Community and Leadership Development," while transferring the graduate program in rural sociology to the Sociology Department. Cornell University's department of rural sociology has also changed its name to the department of Development Sociology.
Scholarly associations in rural sociology include:
The Rural Sociological Society (RSS), of the United States, was formed in 1937 after years of discussion as a spinoff of the American Sociological Society. It publishes the scholarly quarterly journal Rural Sociology. The full run of back issues is online from 1936-89 through Cornell University Library's program of putting online core historical resources in rural sociology.
The European Society for Rural Sociology (ESRS) was founded in 1957. It says it is "the leading European association for scientists involved in the study of agriculture and fisheries, food production and consumption, rural development and change, rurality and cultural heritage, equality and inequality in rural society, and nature and environmental care."
The International Rural Sociology Association (IRSA) has as its mission, to "foster the development of rural sociology; further the application of sociological inquiry to the improvement of the quality of rural life; and provide a mechanism whereby rural sociologists can generate dialogue and useful exchange." It published the International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food.
The International Association for Society and Natural Resources (IASNR) publishes the journal, Society & Natural Resources.
Several academic journals are published in the field of (or closely related to) rural sociology, including: