The War of Jenkins' Ear was a conflict between Britain and Spain lasting from 1739 to 1748, mainly in New Granada and among the West Indies of the Caribbean Sea, with major operations largely ended by 1742. Its name, coined by British historian Thomas Carlyle in 1858, refers to Robert Jenkins, a captain of a British merchant ship, who suffered having his ear severed when Spanish sailors boarded his ship at a time of peace. There is no evidence that supports the stories that the severed ear was exhibited before the British Parliament.
The seeds of conflict began with the injury to Jenkins following the boarding of his vessel by Spanish coast guards in 1731, eight years before the war began. Popular response to the incident was tepid until several years later, when opposition politicians and the British South Sea Company played it up, hoping to spur outrage against Spain, believing that a victorious war would improve Britain's trading opportunities in the Caribbean. In addition, the British wanted to keep pressure on Spain to honour their lucrative asiento contract, which gave British slave traders permission to sell slaves in Spanish America.