The Towns

In this period, the vast majority of Transylvanians lived off agriculture. Industry and commerce were concentrated in small and rather insignificant towns. In 1713–14, Kolozsvár's population (excluding noble landowners, who were only part-time residents, clergymen, and students) consisted of 819 families, or around 4,000 persons. Extrapolating from the growing number of craftsmen, the town's population may have risen to 9,000–9,200 in 1750, around 10,500 in 1770, and 13,928 in 1786. In the latter year, Szeben's population stood at about the same level, while that of Brassó was 25 percent greater. In 1786, all other towns (royal free boroughs, {2-558.} salt-mining centres, and other privileged places) had populations less than half the size of Kolozsvár's, and it can be assumed that these proportions remained roughly constant throughout the 18th century.

Craftsmen constituted but a part of these small urban populations, and merchants were fewer still. Kolozsvár's suburbs (hóstáts) were inhabited mainly by peasants who engaged in horticulture, viniculture, and, in some cases, grain-growing. Urban craftsmen also engaged in agricultural pursuits, including viniculture. Even Saxon patricians who had given up crafts and commerce would continue to practice viniculture for profit.

The towns' ancient privileges offered security for the burghers, and even for those who had not yet won full civic status. To be sure, they did not constitute a modern bourgeoisie. The urban patricians who engaged in financial dealings were essentially dabbling in usury. The interest they charged was generally paid in kind (wheat, corn, wine), in the form of fields, pastures, the indebted village's pub or mill, or by labour services (ploughing, mowing, harvesting, vine-tending, or carting). The urban landscape, particularly in the two principal Saxon towns, Szeben and Brassó, gradually became more civilized; the paving of Szeben's streets began in 1721, and Brassó's market place was paved in 1737. But even the more prosperous of Transylvania's towns retained a rather somnolent character in this period.