What was the Shortest War in History?

Vannessa | 12 - 30 - 2023

The Anglo-Zanzibar War is considered the briefest war in history, which occurred between the British Empire and the East African Island Sultanate of Zanzibar. It is recorded the shortest war in history that lasted not more than 38 to 45 minutes. After the death of the previous sultan Hamad, his brother Sultan Khalid bin Barghash usurped the throne despite considering the terms with the British.

What Caused the Shortest War in History?

Though it proclaimed the shortest war in history, this war had provoking stories behind the scenes. In 1890, two dominating countries, the British and Germany, signed the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty. According to the treaty, the imperial powers in East Africa will have specific territories to govern. The British took over Zanzibar while the Germans gained the neighboring territory of Tanzania. 

The British announced Zanzibar as their direct protectorate, appointing Hamad Bin Thuwaini the fifth sultanate to rule the region. Hamad led his domain rather peacefully under British directives. However, his reign ended when he died in August 1896. No sooner the the ruler died, his brother Khalid bin Barghash seized his power without British approval. Also, news was spreading that Khalid was the one who poisoned Hamad. 

Which war was the shortest in history?
  • A. First world war
  • B. Russian civil war
  • C. American civil war
  • D. Anglo- Zanzibar war

Knowingly, the British didn’t agree with Khalid’s unacceptable approach. British diplomats were already positioned there; one of the chiefs even commanded Khalid to step down. Khalid refused and came up with his strategy. He accumulated all his men to guard his palace. Within a short time, he gathered almost 3000 soldiers, and numerous artillery guns, and bought a royal yacht from a nearby harbor. 

Also, check out the blog about why was the American Civil war fought.

How Did the Zanzibar Revolution End?

Khalid made his thoughts clear. He was calling for war. Similar to Khalid, the British decided not to give up. Eventually, they brought troops and warships, their intention was not only to dethrone Khalid but stop his supporters from battling. Since Cave did not have the authority to make the move, he had to wait for orders from the British Government. The order came sooner than they expected, with a British Commander to charge the fleet. 

British wanted Khalid to surrender and retake the Zanzibar. Khalid refused stubbornly even after the British approach plenty of times. As a result, the British rang their war bell.


Why It Was Called the Shortest War?

Khalid did not consider the British Government’s final ultimatum, which led them to open fire on the ships. Within a few minutes, most of his weapons shattered and his wooden palace became fragile to hold his 3000 supporters who were alive inside. 

During the bombardment, Khalid seemed to have fled through the back door leaving his subjects to fight for him. No less than 40 minutes later, the Sultan’s flag was dragged down; making it the 38-minute shortest war in history. Even though it was the shortest war, it had 500 casualties at the end. 
Not all wars extend to many years, some may end as soon as they begin, just as in the Anglo-Zanzibar war. If you find history fascinating, read about the countries which have never been to a war.

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