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A Severed Ear, a Global War, and Slavery

Date: April 24, 2013
Former Starr Center Fellow Peter Silver returns April 24 to tell the story of the War of Jenkins’s Ear and its impact on slavery in America.

CHESTERTOWN, MD— Peter Silver, a Bancroft Prize-winning historian and recent writing fellow-in-residence at the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, will return to Washington College April 24 to talk about a colorful 18th-century war that had a profound impact on the slave trade and the balance of power in the New World.

“The Voyage of the Revenge: Making the World Safe for Slavery in the War of Jenkins’s Ear” begins at 5:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, on the Washington College campus and is free and open to the public.

Silver, who teaches early American history at Rutgers University, is the author of Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (Norton, 2008), which was awarded the Bancroft Prize – considered one of the field’s highest honors – and the Mark Lynton History Prize. His talk will be based on his book-in-progress, A Rotten Colossus: Spanish and British America in the War of Jenkins’s Ear. He was in residence at the Starr Center for two months last summer while living in Chestertown as the 2012 Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Fellow.

Given its name more than a century after the fact by British essayist Thomas Carlyle, the War of Jenkins’s Ear was supposed to have had its genesis in the ordeal of a British sea captain named Jenkins who had his ear cut off by a Spanish captain – setting off a chain of events that pitched the two superpowers into global war.

Silver’s project is to make sense of the remarkable flurry of events – from nearly uncontrolled immigration and real and fancied slave revolts, to invasion panics and widespread religious revival – that unfolded in and around North America during the era of that Anglo-Spanish conflict, from about 1735 to 1745, during which the British sought to protect their slave trade and retain access to the slave market of the Spanish empire.

“Peter Silver is considered one of the stars of the younger generation of American historians, and we are happy to be supporting his work,” said Adam Goodheart, the Starr Center’s Hodson-Trust Griswold Director. “His current research illuminates a key moment in the British Empire’s rise to global preeminence – and one that has been largely forgotten.”

Silver grew up in Richmond, Ind., was educated at Harvard College and Yale University and served as an assistant professor of history at Princeton University. He lives in Princeton, N.J.

The Hodson-Brown Fellowship, cosponsored with the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, one of the world’s leading repositories of early Americana, supports significant projects relating to the literature, history, culture or art of the Americas before 1830. For more information, visit http://www.washcoll.edu/centers/starr/hodson-brown-fellowship.php.



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