The Shortest War In History: The Anglo-Zanzibar War (2023)

The Anglo-Zanzibar War that took place on the 27th of August 1896 is the world’s shortest war, lasting about 40 minutes.

On August 25th 1896 Hamad bin Thuwaini, the Sultan of Zanzibar suddenly died and his cousin Seyyid Khalid bin Barghash bin Said Al-Busaidi (who for the remainder of this article will be referred to as Khalid bin Barghash) seized the royal palace and crowned himself Sultan. Zanzibar had been a British protectorate since 1890 and according to an 1886 treaty a claimant to the throne could not become Sultan without British approval first. Britain believed that Barghash would not support their interests in Zanzibar and when he refused to abdicate, the British declared war two days later.

Khalid bin Bargash: Determined to Rule

Seyyid Khalid bin Barghash (“Seyyid” being a title carried by each member of the royal family and was prefixed to their name) was born in 1874 to the second Sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyid Barghash bin Said. He was first considered as a prospective Sultan in 1881 when his father requested in his will that Barghash take the throne after his death. When his father died, the British instead crowned Barghashs uncle, Seyyid Khalifa bin Said in 1888, who several years later became physically and mentally sick, ordering executions of prisoners for the first time in 25 years.

When Seyyid Khalifa died suddenly in 1890 he was succeeded by his brother Seyyid Ali bin Said who in June 1890 made Zanzibar a British protectorate and abolished slave trading, though slave ownership was still permitted in most cases. When Seyyid Ali became deathly ill, and Khalid bin Barghashs name was once again presented to the British as a prospective sultan, British Consul-General Gerald Portal described him as an arrogant character who had the “sternness of his father but none of his intelligence”. Portal saw Barghash as being aggressive to European civilization and would become a fierce and aggressive leader if he ascended to the throne.

According to British agent, Arthur Henry Hardinge, the British preferred selecting older and more experienced siblings and cousins for sultan, even if younger claimants were the direct descendants of past sultans. Barghash had also expressed his frustration to Hardinge at the British and Germans carving up and seizing territories that once belonged to the Sultan.

(Video) The Anglo Zanzibar War - The Shortest War in History

Following Seyyid Alis death in March 1893, Barghash was determined to become the new sultan and seized the palace before the British arrived. General Mathews, the former sultans First Minister and army commander, occupied the square of the palace, keeping in check the supporters of the rival claimants. British agent and the Consul-General at the time, Ronnell Rodd and a senior British marine officer, Captain R.N Campbell, soon advanced on the palace with 160 blue jackets and marines, convincing Barghash to leave the palace. Soon afterwards the British made Bargashs cousin, Hamad bin Thuwaini, the new sultan.

Preceding the War

Though it can not be proven for certain, many people have suspected that Barghash killed Thuwaini with poison. British representatives General Mathews and a British diplomat, Basil Cave arrived at the palace 10 minutes following Thuwainis death and a few minutes later were confronted by Barghash, who rejected their advice – to leave the palace and go home. Instead he took command of 1,200 of the late sultans soldiers and seized control of the palace.

At 3:00pm on the 25th of August 1896, Barghash crowned himself sultan – an action that Cave had previously warned him would be regarded by the British Government as an act of rebellion. The red flag over the palace, which had been lowered after Thuwainis death and during his burial, was raised again to signify the crowning of a new sultan.

Foreign consuls were sent memorandums informing them that Barghash had ascended to the throne and 21 shots were fired from the late sultans boat in the harbor to commemorate and salute the new sultan. Barghash also attempted to send a message to the Queen through the American Consul, R. Dorsey Mohun, indicating his interest to maintain the friendship with the British. However the message was intercepted by Cave who made sure that the Queen never received it.

When the British Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, heard of Barghash seizing power, he gave British agents in Zanzibar permission to use what ever means were necessary to remove him from the palace. So at 7am on the 27th of August, Admiral Rawson of the British flagship, The St. George, sent Barghash an ultimatum: leave the palace by 9am or Britain would declare war.

Barghash ignored the ultimatum, possibly due to soothsayers predicting that when the British open fire, only water would squirt out from their guns. However he still tried to avoid conflict, attempting to negotiate peace through foreign consuls as well as sending an envoy at 8am to Basil Cave. The British told the envoy that unless Barghash met their demands, they would declare war.

(Video) The Anglo-Zanzibar War: The Shortest War in History (A Short Summary)

Khaleds army consisted of over 2,500 loyal followers, the royal yacht His Highness Ship (HHS) Glasgow, seven hotchkiss guns and krupp guns as well as 2 maxims and a large number of old muzzle loading cannons.

The British had approximately 330 seamen and 120 marines onshore, reinforced by 500 or more native Askari troops from the Zanzibar military who were led by General Raikes. They also had five maxims and one 7-pounder cannon. At the brunt of the British forces were 5 warships, The Philomel, The Racoon, The Thrush, The Sparrow and The St. George which were docked in Zanzibars harbor and as 9am approached the ships artillery were locking their sights on the Royal Palace.

The War

Sure enough, Britain declared war at 9:00 and by 9:02, The Thrush, Sparrow and Racoon, opened fire on the royal palace Beit al-Hukum, ultimately destroying it. Another palace Beit al-Sahel was severely damaged by the shelling and the Beit Al-Ajaib (House of Wonders), a ceremonial palace (which is now the National Zanzibar Museum of History and Culture) received minor damage, though a lighthouse in front of the palace was totally destroyed.

In Zanzibars harbor, The HSS Glasgow, a gift from Queen Victoria to Thuwaini, engaged the warships. Armed with seven small artillery pieces and a Gatling gun, the Glasgow was no match for the British navy and was soon sunk by the St. George after warning shots failed to influence the Glasgow to cease its attack. There is some inconsistency in historical reports on the fate of the crew. Some say that all the crew members were rescued by the St. George and that there were no casualties, while other accounts mention that 8 or 9 crew members died.

At some point during the fighting Barghash fled with some of his senior officers, rushing through the towns by-streets, where he was stopped by British soldiers. Not knowing who he was they simply disarmed him and allowed him to proceed to the German embassy where he received asylum.

The Aftermath

(Video) Anglo Zanzibar war | Shortest war in history in hindi | दुनिया का सबसे छोटा युद्ध #anglo #zanzibar

When the shelling ended by 9:40-9:45, Beit Al-Hukum was destroyed and there were approximately 500 casualties amongst the locals, many of them slaves who were crushed and burned by the falling debris in the Biet Al-Hukum, as a result of the attacks from the British warships.

The Gazette for Zanzibar and East Africa described the destruction of the palace as follows: “To describe the interior is impossible. To produce a similar effect take chairs, tables, cabinets, clocks, vases, bookcases, an orchestra, an armory, a manuscript library, a wardrobe, an instrument makers, an electricians and an opticians store; lamp and perfume seller shops; spread the floor with choicest carpets; add all scraps of royal insignia procurable; put dynamite here and there, explode ad lib. and there you have it”.

According to another witness, Reverent J.P Farler, the palace ruins were sacked of all valuables and the palace itself was “an awful sight, with dead bodies lying everywhere and such ruin and destruction”.

The Thrush, which had reportedly been shot over 100 times, had one sailor who was badly wounded in the thigh. Many sources report that the soldier recovered to full health, but some insist that he died shortly after.

A New Sultan and the End of Slavery

Khalid had been popular amongst many Arabs in Zanzibar who recognised him as the rightful heir to the throne and were growing tired of Britains interference in the governing of their country which had existed over the century. Britains insistence on abolishing the slave trade since 1822 was particularly troubling to many locals, who believed slave ownership to be important to their culture and without free labor their national economy would collapse.

However after the shelling, Britain encountered little resistance amongst the locals and selected a new Sultan, Barghashs cousin Hamud bin-Mohamed who became a puppet to the British and was required to reimburse the British military for every shell and bullet that their army fired during the conflict. On April 5 1897, Mohamed signed a treaty to abolish the legal status of slave ownership in Zanzibar.

(Video) The Shortest War of All Time - Anglo-Zanzibar War - One Minute History

Barghashs Fate

After the war Germany refused to hand Bergash over to the British and on October 2nd 1896 Bargash was smuggled out of Zanzibar on the German warship Seeadler and into Dar-Es-Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, which was under German rule at the time. He was detained by British forces when they took control of the city in 1916. He was then exiled to St. Helena until 1921 when he was sent to Seychelles. He was soon sent to Mombasa, Kenya where he lived until his death in 1927.

Comparing Duration With Other Wars and Reigns

The second shortest international conflict, after The Anglo-Zanzibar War, was The Soccer War (14–18 July 1969) between El Salvador and Honduras, which as the name suggests was sparked by the results of a soccer game, though hostilities had been rising between the two countries over economic and migration issues prior to the soccer match between their national teams. There were an estimated 2,000 deaths as a result of the conflict.

The Dauphin Louis Antoine, or King Louis XIX also had shorter reign than Barghash, having ruled France for a world record duration of 15-20 minutes in 1830 before abdicating his throne to Henry V.

On the other end of the scale the longest running monarch in history was Sobhuza II of Swaziland whose reign began when he was four months old and lasted over 82 years.

The war with the longest duration is believed to be The 335-Years War, which began in 1651 when the Netherlands declared war on the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago which consists of approximately 200 hundred islands, including Bryher, Tresco, St Martins, St Marys, St Agnes and Gugh. Though they never really engaged in battle since, the Dutch and the Isle were still technically at war for nearly three and a half centuries until they signed a peace treaty in 1986.

(Video) Anglo-Zanzibar War: History's Shortest War


What was the shortest Anglo-Zanzibar War? ›

The Anglo-Zanzibar War was a military conflict fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on 27 August 1896. The conflict lasted between 38 and 45 minutes, marking it as the shortest recorded war in history.

What happened in the Anglo-Zanzibar War? ›

The British issued an ultimatum to Khālid: either relinquish the throne by 9:00 am on August 27 or be at war with Great Britain. Khālid did not stand down, and the Anglo-Zanzibar War followed. Having lasted less than an hour before Khālid's forces surrendered, it is considered the shortest war in recorded history.

Is the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 the shortest war in history it lasted about 45 minutes? ›

The Anglo-Zanzibar war was fought on August 27, 1896 between the British Empire and the Sultanate of Zanzibar (an island off the coast of Tanzania that was under British dominance) that lasted for only 38-45 minutes, making the war the shortest one ever recorded.

What is the quickest war in history? ›

The little known Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 is generally considered to be the shortest war in history, lasting for a grand total of 38 minutes. The story begins with the signing of the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty between Britain and Germany in 1890.

Who won the Anglo war? ›

England declared war in March 1665 and won a decisive victory over the Dutch off Lowestoft in June.

What was the biggest war in history? ›

World War II was the biggest and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries. Sparked by the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, the war dragged on for six bloody years until the Allies defeated the Axis powers of Nazi Germany, Japan and Italy in 1945.

What is the shortest war in American history? ›

THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR in 1898 was America's shortest war lasting just 10 weeks. Fought between The United States and Spain, it was sparked by the sinking of the battleship, USS Maine in Havana harbor in Cuba.

When was the worst war ever? ›

Wars and armed conflicts
EventLowest estimateEnd
World War II70,000,0001945
Mongol invasions and conquests30,000,0001405
Taiping Rebellion20,000,0001864
European colonization of the Americas8,400,0001691
44 more rows

Which war lasted 7 days? ›

The Seven Days Battles were a series of seven battles over seven days from June 25 to July 1, 1862, near Richmond, Virginia, during the American Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee drove the invading Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj.

How many minutes did the Anglo-Zanzibar War last? ›

It was over in less than an hour. The Anglo-Zanzibar War is remembered as the shortest war in history, taking place entirely over a period of about 40 minutes on the morning of August 27, 1896.

When did the Anglo-Zanzibar War end? ›

What was the smallest war? ›

It's generous to call the Anglo-Zanzibar War a "war." The entire conflict lasted less than an hour and the victory was ludicrously one-sided, yet this 1896 standoff between the British Royal Navy and a stubborn sultan is commonly cited as the shortest war on record.

What was the shortest war in history how long did it last? ›

On 27 August 1896, the British Empire went to war with the Zanzibar Sultanate for approximately 38 minutes! It is the shortest war in history.

Was the 100 Years war the longest? ›

The struggle between France and England called the Hundred Years' War was the longest war in recorded history. It lasted, with some interruptions, through the reigns of five English kings (Edward III to Henry V) and five French kings (Philip VI to Charles VII). The underlying cause of the war lay in the feudal system.

Was there a war that lasted 100 years? ›

The Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) was a series of conflicts fought between England and France over succession to the French throne.

Who almost won the war in 1776? ›

Americans: The Americans had limited resources and little chance of winning the war in 1776. They survived the year, gained experience, and surprised the British at year's end.

What caused the Anglo war? ›

The war began on October 11 1899, following a Boer ultimatum that the British should cease building up their forces in the region. The Boers had refused to grant political rights to non-Boer settlers, known as Uitlanders, most of whom were British, or to grant civil rights to Africans.

Who won the first Anglo war? ›

There was a battle at Wadgaon near Pune in which the Marathas under Mahadji Shinde secured a decisive victory over the English. The English were forced to sign the Treaty of Wadgaon in 1779.

What was the most brutal battle in history? ›

The Most Deadly Battle In History: Stalingrad

The figures for the Battle of Stalingrad battle are shocking even by the standards of the other campaigns on this list. Running from August 23, 1942 to February 2, 1943, Stalingrad led to 633,000 battle deaths.

Which war killed the most? ›

The American Civil War is the conflict with the largest number of American military fatalities in history. In fact, the Civil War's death toll is comparable to all other major wars combined, the deadliest of which were the World Wars, which have a combined death toll of more than 520,000 American fatalities.

What was the worst war to fight in? ›

The most lethal war in human history is almost certainly World War II. Other wars may have been more lethal but lack credible records. Sixty to eighty million people died between 1939 and 1945. Twenty one to twenty five million of the deaths were military, the remainder civilian.

What is the shortest war in human history? ›

On 27 August 1896, the British Empire went to war with the Zanzibar Sultanate for approximately 38 minutes! It is the shortest war in history.

Why did the British take over Zanzibar? ›

The United Kingdom's early interest in Zanzibar was motivated by both commerce and the determination to end the slave trade. In 1822, the British signed the first of a series of treaties with Sultan Said to curb this trade.

What was the cause of Zanzibar Revolution? ›

Answer and Explanation: The Zanzibar Revolution was the result of ethnic tension. Zanzibar was ruled by an Arab Sultan and had an Arab minority elite, but a strong majority of the country were ethnic Africans. The ruling party in Zanzibar was the Arab-led, Zanzibar Nationalist Party.

How many people died in Anglo Zanzibar War of 1896? ›

Casualties & Losses

For England, only a single sailor was wounded, but for the Sultanate of Zanzibar five hundred were killed or injured (including civilians), 4 artillery pieces were destroyed, a shore battery was destroyed, two other boats were sunk, and the HHS Glasgow (the Sultan's personal royal ship) was sunk.

What is the longest the world has gone without war? ›

War is defined as an active conflict that has claimed more than 1,000 lives. Has the world ever been at peace? Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history.

What is the oldest war in human history? ›

Historians believe the first war in recorded history took place in Mesopotamia in 2,700 B.C. between the forces of Sumer and Elam. Enembaragesi, the King of Kish, led the Sumerians to victory over the Elamites in that war.

What was the longest war in US history? ›

This article contains the length and list of major conflicts, invasions and wars participated by the United States Armed Forces since its creation in 1775. The longest to date is the American Indian conflicts with about 148 years of duration.

Why was Zanzibar so important? ›

Zanzibar, a valuable property as the main slave market of the east African coast, becomes an increasingly important part of the Omani empire – a fact reflected by the decision of the greatest 19th-century sultan of Oman, Said bin Sultan, to make it from 1837 his main place of residence.

When did slavery end in Zanzibar? ›

e last permanent slave market in East Africa was in Zanzibar (Tanzania) and was closed in 1873. In 1879, British missionaries built Christ Church Cathedral at the site, and today it is the most significant marker of what occurred at this place.

Which country owns Zanzibar? ›

The Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous province of Tanzania.

What is Zanzibar now called? ›

In the same year, Zanzibar and the mainland Tanganyika merged to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. A few months later, it was renamed the Republic of Tanzania. To this day, Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania.

What language do they speak in Zanzibar? ›

Swahili is the principal language in Zanzibar and Pemba. The classical dialect is Kiunguja.

How many people died in the Zanzibar Revolution? ›

They proceeded to loot Arab and South Asian-owned properties and businesses and then rape or murder Arab and Indian civilians on the island. The death toll is disputed, with estimates ranging from several hundred to 20,000. The moderate ASP leader Abeid Karume became the country's new president and head of state.

How long did the Zanzibar Revolution last? ›

To understand the Zanzibari Revolution, one must first understand Zanzibari history, something that is highly contested on the islands. for independence. The period is often defined as 1957 – January 12, 1964 (the Revolution), although some more broadly define it as the post-WWII era.

How long did the Anglo-Zanzibar War last? ›

1920. Rijksmuseum. The Anglo-Zanzibar War has the dubious honour of being the shortest war in history, lasting around 38 minutes from the outbreak of hostilities. Following the sudden death of the Sultan of Zanzibar, the British consul found himself outflanked when the sultan's nephew declared himself the new ruler.


1. The Shortest War in History: The Anglo-Zanzibar War
2. Anglo-Zanzibar War: The Shortest War In History
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3. The Shortest War: The Anglo Zanzibar War. - Military History Animated.
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4. The Shortest War in History, The Anglo-Zanzibar War
5. The Anglo-Zanzibar War in 1896 - The Shortest War In History (Only 38 Minutes)
6. Why the Shortest War in History Lasted 38 Minutes


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