In the Flat Field was released on 3 November 1980 by record label 4AD. It was met with a negative response from critics, but topped the UK Independent Albums Chart and made the UK Albums Chart for one week, peaking at No. 72.
The album was first released on CD by 4AD in April 1988, with eight bonus tracks including three non-album singles: "Dark Entries", "Terror Couple Kill Colonel" and a cover of T. Rex's "Telegram Sam." Five of these bonus tracks had been previously compiled on the 4AD EP in 1983.
On 19 October 2009, 4AD/Beggars Banquet reissued the album as an "Omnibus Edition", featuring the 24-bit John Dent remastered CD of the original nine-track album in a replica mini-LP sleeve (with corresponding inner sleeve featuring the lyrics), plus a 16-track bonus disc of singles, outtakes, alternate recordings and original versions. The set came inside a semi-long box, coupled with a 48-page book that included comments from band members, photos, complete lyrics, complete tour date information for 1979 and 1980, and an essay by Andrew Brooksbank on the formation and creation of the band, the singles and the album.
or journalist Andy Gill, the dark atmosphere of the record was reminiscent of previous works by groups like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, and Joy Division. In his AllMusic review, critic Ned Raggett described Bauhaus as a "glam-inspired rock band", said that singer Peter Murphy channeled both Iggy Pop and David Bowie, and compared Daniel Ash's guitar playing to Mick Ronson's. Raggett noted that the album concluded with "a dramatic ending" with the song "Nerves"