Trade and Commerce

These, then, were the goods that reached the Transylvanian market between 1711 and 1770. Agriculture contributed relatively little; among the products of the mining sector, salt was a Treasury monopoly, and gold bullion could not be marketed by private individuals; and 'industrial' goods consisted mainly of traditional {2-545.} handicrafts. Thus most domestic products were traded in the traditional fashion, without recourse to middlemen, in a direct exchange between producer and buyer at fairs and markets. Merchants traded only in those domestic goods that had to be shipped in, be it because of their higher quality, or because their production was limited to certain regions. The merchants did play a role in foreign trade, gathering and shipping goods for export, or importing and marketing products from abroad.

For much of this period, the only foreign trade relationship on which information has survived is that between Transylvania and Hungary. The evidence indicates that the balance favoured Transylvania: in 1733–34, Transylvanian exports to Hungary were valued at 301,662, and its imports at 113,514 forints. Over the next few years, the surplus of exports over imports remained in the range of 140,000–240,000 forints. Probably in consequence of the cattle plague and famine, the balance turned negative in 1739–41, with a trade deficit of some 16,000 forints. The shift was only momentary, for there was a trade surplus of 400,000 thousand forints in 1743, 300,000 in 1752, and 435,000 forints in 1767.

However, the overall balance in Transylvania's foreign trade had turned negative in 1746–47, if not earlier; in that year, exports amounted to slightly over 700,000 forints, while imports reached 900,000. The larger part of Transylvania's imports came not from Hungary, but from the Austrian hereditary provinces, Western Europe, and the Levant. The plausibility of this report on 1746–47 is reinforced by trade statistics for the end of the period: the trade deficit stood at 342,777 forints 9.5 kreuzers in 1767, at 503,636 forints 45 kreuzers (or, according to another source, 665,902 forints 42 3/6 kreuzers) in 1768, and at 592,203 forints 21 1/4 kreuzers in 1769.

Transylvania's exports at the beginning of the period consisted of livestock, animal products, textiles, forest products, and some grocery goods. The observation, voiced at the spring 1725 diet, that {2-546.} cattle were the only Transylvanian product for which a demand existed abroad, was not far off the mark. Similarly, the merchants of Szeben, Segesvár, Medgyes, and Beszterce had some grounds for claiming that they could only export wax (to Venice) and cloth (to Wallachia and Hungary).

For the early years of the period, commodity statistics are available only in the case of exports to Hungary. Between 1725 and 1727, an average of 13,402 cattle a year were driven from the markets of Szászváros and Kolozsvár to Hungary. In 1733–34, livestock (90 percent oxen), valued at 177,000 forints, accounted for 57.2 percent of Transylvania's exports to Hungary; the rest consisted of textiles, hides, lumber and other wood products, and grocery goods. But this, too, has to be qualified: some of the cattle originated in Moldavia and Wallachia, and had been kept on rented feedlots before being driven on to Hungary and beyond, to Vienna and the hereditary provinces. And even this trade was not free of problems: the exported cattle were accustomed to salt, which was plentiful in Transylvania, and in Hungary, where they got no salt, they became more susceptible to sickness than the local cattle. The balance of trade in other livestock was negative. The cavalry regiments that were stationed in Transylvania in the mid-1700s often had to import horses from the Romanian principalities. There is no statistical data on the trade deficit in sheep, but imports from Wallachia and Moldavia of wool and other sheep products amounted to some 30,000 forints a year in the 1750s. The trade in goats had a peculiar feature. Over 15,000 goatskins were imported annually from the Romanian principalities to supply Transylvanian tanners, and, for roughly the same price, some 4,000–5,000 live goats were exported in return; in effect, Transylvania was giving away the goat meat and fat. In the same period, Transylvania was importing each year from Wallachia some 50,000 pigs, worth over 150,000 forints.

{2-547.} Stock-breeding was a mainstay of Transylvania's economy, yet foreign trade in this important sector was marked, at mid-century, by uncertainties and limiting factors in the case of cattle exports, sizeable imports of pigs, and imports of sheep and goat products as well. The first detailed trade statistics, dating from 1768, indicate a deficit in the amount of 665,903 forints 47 3/4 kreuzers. To be sure, the cattle plague had struck that year, bringing an at least partial embargo on exports; this explains why the value of exported oxen and buffalo fell to 79,807 forints from the previous year's 301,710 forints 40 kreuzers. But even after adjustment for this exceptional circumstance, the deficit stood at some 444,000 forints. The major export item was cattle (and buffalo), in the value noted above; far behind came sheep (37,175 forints 52 kreuzers), horses (27,047 forints 30 kreuzers), textiles (142,279 forints 40 3/4 kreuzers), raw and tanned skins (36,753 forints 34 kreuzers, and 54,962 forints 39 3/4 kreuzers, respectively), forest products (40,983 forints 15 kreuzers), and wax (20,315 forints 5 kreuzers).

Imports totalled close to 1.2 million forints. They included a modest but significant number of livestock: cows and heifers worth 47,935 forints and 22 kreuzers, and pigs worth 45,301 forints 30 kreuzers. There were sizeable imports of foodstuffs that met religious or general consumer needs: fish for the Lent fare of Orthodox believers (18,264 forints 6 kreuzer), coffee (16,006 forints 50 kreuzers), sugar (from Fiume, 12,344 forints 6 kreuzers, from other sources 17,414 forints 1 kreuzer), and alcoholic drinks (57,217 forints 5 kreuzers for wine from Moldavia and Wallachia, 21,748 forints 40 kreuzers for wine from Hungary and the Banat, 26,439 forints 4 kreuzers for brandy). The biggest import items were industrial raw materials and clothing. Imports of raw cotton amounted to 134,842 forints 55 kreuzers; of hides, to 29,124 forints 46.5 kreuzers; of raw wool, 34,899 forints 15 1/4 kreuzers; of indigo, 18,048 forints; and of copper, 15,689 forints 2 kreuzers. An even greater share of imports was constituted by finished and semi-{2-548.} finished garments (315,987 forints 10 kreuzers) and furs (155,015 forints 31 kreuzers).

Transylvania was less than self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs, not to speak of the more exotic consumer items. Despite the massive imports of raw materials, the textile and tanning industries could not satisfy the demand for clothing. The imbalance in trade goes a long way toward explaining why all efforts at economic reform in 18th century Transylvania were marked by Puritanism, with little visible effect. It is harder to explain how Transylvania could sustain a large and chronic deficit in its foreign trade. The economic gap between the hereditary provinces and Transylvania, the most backward province of the Habsburg empire, grew wider over this period.

The evolution between 1711 and 1770 of Transylvanian society, with its archaic or otherwise distinctive elements, took place within the context of an economy that was backward and unable to keep up with the pace of development in the rest of the Habsburg empire.