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In the early 1700s, decades of rising tensions between Spain and Britain culminated in a war that was fought all over the world. And it all started with a scene that sounds like it belongs in Reservoir Dogs: In 1731, a Spanish guarda costa abused its right to stop and search British merchant ships in the West Indies for contraband, and a Spanish privateer named Juan de León Fandiño cut off British captain Robert Jenkins’s ear during a search of his trading brig Rebecca.

Jenkins returned to England with his severed and then presented it to King George II. The incident helped spark arguably the first global war.


Today’s guest, Robert Gaudi, is author of the new book “The War of Jenkins’ Ear.” We discuss the three-year war that laid the groundwork for the French and Indian War and, eventually, the War of the American Revolution. It was a world war in the truest sense, engaging the major European powers on battlefields ranging from Europe to the Americas to the Asian subcontinent.

Yet the conflict barely known to us today, even though it resulted in the invasion of Georgia and even involved members of George Washington’s own family. It would cost fifty-thousand lives, millions in treasure, and over six hundred ships. Overall, this was turly an American war; a hard-fought, costly struggle that determined the fate of the Americas, and in which, for the first time, American armies participated.

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