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Robert Jenkins's ear

April 8, 2011 - Karin Elton
How many people knew about this war? I didn’t. According to This Day in History for April 9: In 1731, Robert Jenkins's ear was cut off, sparking the War of Jenkins’s Ear between Spain and England. It grew out of the commercial rivalry of the two powers and led to involvement in the larger War of the Austrian Succession. The incident that gave the name to the war occurred in 1731 when, according to Robert Jenkins, master of the ship Rebecca, he had his ear cut off by Spanish coast guards. English smuggling and resentment at exclusion from the Spanish colonial trade caused the war, but Jenkins's story in the House of Commons (1738), reinforced by the showing of his carefully preserved ear, had a tremendous propaganda effect and forced the reluctant Sir Robert Walpole to declare war.

On the one hand, it’s bad to have your ear cut off. On the other it’s cool to have something named after you. But this was a war, so I guess it’s a lose-lose situation all the way around. Let’s just go with this is an interesting name for a war right up there with the War of the Austrian Succession.


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