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Black Death: The Gathering Storm

The Black Death had to make the jump to Europe somewhere and this is it. Along the Scythian coast, overlooking the Black Sea is the city of Kaffa (present day Feodosa in Crimea). At this time the city is part of the Republic of Genoa and the Mongols want the Genoans out. The Mongols set up camp and besiege the city, but the Black Death has been coming up behind them. Once it reaches the camp next year, someone will get the bright idea of catapulting the Plague-ridden bodies over the wall into Kaffa. The Genoans will load up their ships, and make for Constantinople and points west. These are the death ships and the Republic of Genoa is a massive commercial shipping empire. They will have silks to sell and sailors coming into port to share a meal and a story. Some of them won't last the night. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
This is going to hit Europe fast and there are reasons for that but you need to know this first. The Republic of Genoa is massive. It's not just in Italy. It practically bought the south of Crimea. It encompasses the island of Corsica. It owns ports in Morocco, Spain and Flanders. It's commercial products are carried far inland for sale. The only other commercial venture that comes close to it is its direct competitor, Venice. The products the Genoans are carrying have Plague fleas all over them. Some ports have reasonable quarantines on goods shipped in. Others ports are more flexible for a price. This time, the price will be death.

A Corrupting Influence

The Middle Ages is a difficult place to find tax revenues. The reason is that if the King wants to levy a tax, who must collect the tax? The sheriffs and the barons do that but they take a cut off the top and often forget to tell the King. Every King takes a pledge to cut down on corruption and it is in their interest to do so because every coin that goes into the sheriff's pocket does not go into the King's pocket. The other problem in the Middle Ages is the actual reporting on the things to be taxed. The historians noticed that in England there was a sudden "undervaluation" of taxable items in 1290 when more general taxes were levied. Those taxes were a compromise to make up for expelling the Jews from England in 1290.[5] With that loss of direct revenue to the King, the Parliament allowed for a new tax. When the new tax went into place, people suddenly changed their behavior and under-reported. Thus the tax records did not always reflect what was actually happening. [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
General taxation was difficult for a king to do until the year 1290, at least in England. Before that time the King's only direct source of getting money was a loan, selling land, selling government positions such as sheriff, or import fees or taxing the Jews. Oddly enough in the Middle Ages, the peasants were taxed by their local lords but the Jews were taxed by the King. The King collected it directly so there was no middle man. And please don't think that selling a government position doesn't happen today. There are some towns where becoming a sheriff or mayor for one term can set a person up for life. The City of Bell, California comes immediately to mind where government officials voted themselves millions. Government corruption still happens. [8] [9]

A Happy New Year on Wikipedia

The yearly format at Wikipedia has changed to provide more context for a given year. The maps are also helpful. See the Year 1345 for an example.

My Take by Alex Shrugged
More context was needed because the old format was too sparse to understand the significance of the events for the year. The new entries are a little wordy but it's a big improvement. This proves that Alex Shrugged can be replaced since providing more historical context is what I do. I am providing focus on what I think might be of interest to the modern survivalist though.

See Also


  1. Dols, Michael W.. The Black Death in the Middle East, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1977. pp. 51-53. (BOOK)
  2. History of Crimea - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  3. Republic of Genoa - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  4. Feodosia: Caffa - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  5. Jones, Dan. The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England. Penguin Books. 2014 (BOOK)
  6. Nightingale , Pamela. The Lay Subsidies and the Distribution of Wealth in Medieval England, 1275-1334. The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Feb., 2004), Economic History Society, pp. 1-32. (JOURNAL)
  7. Subsidy roll - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  8. Bell, California - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  9. California AG sues over California town's municipal salaries - CNN.com, 2010-Sep-15.

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