The Uppsala that met Linnaeus in 1728 was exceedingly small by today’s standards. There were still traces of the terrible fire of 1702. In 1750 the population of the town amounted to 3,608. In the late 1760s the 4,000 mark was passed. This can be compared with today’s population of about 118,000 residents of the central city.
Nevertheless there was rapid growth during the Age of Liberty, with the population of Uppsala doubling in the course of 50 years. The explanation for this is probably the booming University, which had repercussions on the town as a whole, of course.
Sometimes the term ‘academic agrarian village’ is used about Uppsala and Sweden’s other university town in Linnaeus’ day, Lund. It must be remembered that cows actually lay chewing their cud right beside the academic buildings.
Agriculture was by the far the most important industry. On the other hand, manufacturing, the incipient industrial production of the day, was slow to take hold in Uppsala. Trade, too, faced problems, owing to the fact that the sailing channel to Uppsala harbour was considerably harder to navigate than those to other towns around Lake Mälaren. In the middle of the 1780s the naturalist Johan Fischerström complained of the weak business community and commerce in Uppsala. He writes in his book Utkast til Beskrifning om Mälaren (Preliminary Description of Lake Mälaren) (1785):
“How feeble are the strides taken in building factories. In 1770 Uppsala was merely a spinning mill for Stockholm factories, and a tobacco spinning mill that produced about 29,000 pounds. What has been added since then is hardly worth mentioning.”
Torsten Petré, 1958. Uppsala stads historia III: Uppsala under merkantilismens och statskontrollens tidskede 1619–1789.