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.    
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. 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.  
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.
- Dols, Michael W.. The Black Death in the Middle East, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1977. pp. 51-53. (BOOK)
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