At its height, the British Empire was the largest empire in history. The United Kingdom had territories stretching across the globe, including every continent on the planet—even Antarctica. At one point, the United Kingdom included Canada, parts of South America, and many territories in Africa, India, Iraq, and Australia. In 1913, the British Empire contained 23 percent of the world’s population. One of those territories was Zanzibar in Africa. The Anglo-Zanzibar War began and ended on August 27, 1896. It lasted for just 38 minutes, making it the shortest war in recorded history.
History of Zanzibar
Zanzibar is a collection of three islands just off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. It is just south of the southern tip of Kenya and north of Mozambique and Madagascar. Located between the African Great Lakes, Iran, the Somali Peninsula, and the Arabian Peninsula, Zanzibar became a base for traders voyaging through the region.
The first European power to take control of Zanzibar was the Portuguese Empire during the Age of Exploration, a time in history when extensive overseas exploration was happening throughout Europe. The Portuguese Empire held control of Zanzibar for almost 200 years before the Sultanate of Oman, part of the Arabian Peninsula, took over the islands in 1698.
The Arab elite ruled the islands, which were inhabited by a Bantu population. Oman created an economy of cash crops and built plantations to grow spices, leading to the name Spice Islands. Cash crops were one of three major economic contributors to the islands, the other two being slave trade and ivory trade from elephant tusks killed in Tanganyika.
Britain Takes Over Control of Zanzibar
Gradually, the British Empire made inroads on Zanzibar. During the late 19th century, Britain had extended its influence in East Africa and Zanzibar in particular. Sayyid ibn Sultan ruled Muscat, Oman, and Zanzibar from 1806 to 1856 and expanded the country’s regional territory and trading importance. But his successor Barghash was not as successful. Barghash was forced to cede power to Britain and Germany, and later, sultans followed a similar path.
By 1890, Zanzibar came under control by the United Kingdom and became a British protectorate. Protectorate states retain their autonomous control but recognize a greater sovereign state. In exchange, the sovereign state receives something of value, which can vary in each situation.
Zanzibar officially came under British control after the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty between Germany and Britain. The treaty separated out spheres of influence between the imperial powers of East Africa. Zanzibar was ceded to the British, while Germany gained control of mainland Tanzania. Britain went on to find a puppet sultan to put in place, and in 1893, Hamad ibn Thuwaini became the newest Sultan of Zanzibar.
What Started the Anglo-Zanzibar War?
Hamad ruled peacefully for three years. But on August 25, 1896, Sultan Hamad ibn Thuwaini suddenly died. The cause of death was never fully discovered, but the general consensus has been that his cousin Khalid ibn Barghash had Hamad poisoned.
Just a few hours after Hamad’s death, Khalid ibn Barghash had already made himself comfortable in the palace and declared himself ruler. Prince Khalid refused to accept the successor preferred by the British Empire, which angered the local British diplomats.
The British consul to Zanzibar, Basil Cave, reminded Prince Khalid that the appointment of any new ruler was subject to British approval under the terms of their protection treaty. Instead of decorously backing down, Prince Khalid called in 2,800 soldiers to protect him as he bunkered down in the palace.
Cave held a substantial armed presence in the area, including the HMS rush and HMS Philomel, but he knew that he could not open fire without the British government’s approval. So he sent a telegram to the Foreign Office asking, “Are we authorized in the event of all attempts at a peaceful solution proving useless, to fire on the palace from the men-of-war?”
The next day, the British set out to deploy what is known as gunboat diplomacy, a foreign policy that is carried out by a show of force, or threat to use military power. Britain sent an ultimatum to Khalid, telling him to resign or face the might of the British Navy. As the ultimatum was sent out, two gunboats, three cruisers, 900 Zanzibari soldiers, and 150 marines gathered in the Zanzibar harbor.
As the new ships arrived, Cave received a reply from Britain stating, “You are authorized to adopt whatever measures you may consider necessary, and will be supported in your action by Her Majesty’s Government. Do not, however, attempt to take any action which you are not certain of being able to accomplish successfully.”
To the surprise of the British, Khalid had no intention of backing down. Instead, he brought out all the major artillery he could muster, which consisted of several Maxim guns (a canon considered the weapon most associated with British imperial conquest), two 12-pound field guns, a 17-century bronze cannon, and a Gatling gun. Khalid had the guns all trained on the British forces in the harbor and waited.
The 38 Minute War
The apparent stalemate lasted until the morning of August 27. From the palace at 8 am, Prince Khalid sent a message to the British asking for a parley, a meeting between the two sides to discuss an armistice. The British replied that the only way a parley would happen was if the prince agreed to the ultimatum. Prince Khalid replied, saying that he did not believe the British would open fire on the palace.
“We have no intention of hauling down our flag, and we do not believe you would open fire on us.”
After two hours and two minutes had passed, the British opened fire on Khalid’s artillery, completing wiping it out. The palace began to crumble along with the 2,800 soldiers inside. At the same time, the Royal Navy opened fire on the Zanzibari navy. One of the ships was the Glasgow, a royal yacht built for a previous sultan. The ship was sunk, and its crew was rescued. The masts of the ship were visible in the harbor for the next two decades.
After beginning at 8:02 am, the firing stopped at 9:40, and Khalid surrendered. Of those who supported him, 500 had died or were wounded. One member of the British side was wounded, and there were zero casualties.
The Aftermath of the Anglo-Zanzibar War
Prince Khalid fled the country immediately for the German consulate and went into exile. By the afternoon, a new sultan, Hamud ibn Mohammed, had been put in place by the British. Despite repeatedly calling for his extradition, Khalid was smuggled out of Germany on October 2 by the German navy and was taken to Tanzania.
When the British invaded East Africa in 1916, Khalid was captured and taken to Saint Helena to live in exile. After serving a proper amount of time, Khalid was returned to East Africa. He died there in 1927.
When Did Zanzibar Gain Its Independence?
There were no new uprisings in Zanzibar after the Anglo-Zanzibar War. In 1963, Britain relieved Zanzibar of its protectorate status, and Zanzibar became a free state. In 1964, Zanzibar joined with Pemba Island and a few smaller islands and came together with Tanganyika to create the United Republic of Tanzania.
Modern Day Zanzibar
The United Republic of Tanzania is bordered by Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. Its capital is Dodoma, with a population of 410,956. Zanzibar town is the third-largest city in the republic with a population of 501,459.
The country includes incredible wildlife, beginning with the Serengeti National Park. In addition is Ngorogoro Park and its steep mountain walls built from a volcanic crater, which provides natural protection for wildlife. Despite protective measures from the government, rhinos and elephant populations continue to be depleted from poachers looking to trade their ivory tusks.
In 1967, the United Republic of Tanzania joined with Kenya and Uganda to form the East African Community. The three countries shared many services, including a common market, but the union collapsed in 1977. In 1993, the three countries again tried to develop cooperation for mutual benefit and brought about progressive standards and policies.
A new East African Community was formed in January 2001, and the East African Customs Union was formed in January 2005. In 2007, Rwanda and Burundi also became members.
While a member of the East African Community, life in modern-day Zanzibar is vastly different from that on the mainland. Despite being a part of Tanzania, those living in Zanzibar consider themselves Zanzibari. They have their own leaders and governing bodies. In addition to politics, culture, food, and religion are all different on the island than on the mainland. After being ruled by the Sultanate of Oman for many centuries, the vast majority of those on the island are Muslim.
If you are ever visiting Zanzibar, be aware of Swahili time. People there begin counting time when the sun rises, so what would normally be 7 am is now 1 am, while 7 pm is 1 pm. This way of keeping track of time works because, as close to the equator as Zanzibar is, the sun sets and rises at nearly the same time year-round.
Aftermath of the Anglo-Zanzibar War History of Zanzibar Modern Day Zanzibar Swahili Time The 38 Minute War The Anglo-Zanzibar War The Shortest War in History What Started the Anglo-Zanzibar War? When Did Zanzibar Gain Its Independence?
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 was the point of the Anglo-Zanzibar War? ›
The immediate cause of the war was the death of the Sultan of Zanzibar, Hamad bin Thuwaini on the 25 August. His nephew, Khalid bin Bargash, seized power, but he was regarded by the British as far too independent. They preferred Hamud bin Muhammed.How many people died in the Zanzibar war? ›
For such a short war, there were a large, if lopsided, number of casualties. Roughly 500 Zanzibarian fighters lost their lives in the shelling, yet just one British sailor was wounded. With Barghash gone, the British installed a new sultan who immediately outlawed the slave trade in Zanzibar in 1897.Is the Anglo-Zanzibar War the shortest? ›
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.What is the deadliest war in history? ›
World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China.What was the worst war in history? ›
World War II
The war pitted the Allies and the Axis power in the deadliest war in history, and was responsible for the deaths of over 70 million people. Known for its genocidal campaign against the Jewish people, the war was also responsible for the deaths of more than 50 million civilians.
England declared war in March 1665 and won a decisive victory over the Dutch off Lowestoft in June.What started 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 fought the shortest war in history? ›
The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on Aug. 27, 1896. The conflict lasted around 40 minutes, and is the shortest war in history.Who brought slaves to Zanzibar? ›
In 1698, Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultan of Oman. The Portuguese were expelled and a lucrative trade in slaves (started decades earlier by the Portuguese to supply the West Indies), and ivory thrived, along with an expanding plantation economy centring on cloves.
The Slaves were brought to the coast and from there to the spice island of Zanzibar and many were sold further to the Arab countries, Persia, and India, Mauritania and Reunion. Officially, the slave trade was forbidden in 1873 under British pressure, but it went on secretly for several years.How did Zanzibar end? ›
The Zanzibar Révolution of 1964, the most violent outbreak of anti-Arab violence in postcolonial African history, led to the demise of the Sultan of Zanzibar and his Arab government and the merging of the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba with the then-British colony of Tanganyika into the nation of Tanzania.Where is the longest war? ›
Some historians consider England's Scilly conflict to be the longest war in known history, dragging on for a staggering 335 years. Yet one side was not a country in its own right, there were no casualties for the entire duration, and not a single shot was fired.What was the longest peaceful war? ›
|Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War|
|Isles of Scilly Republic of the Seven United Netherlands|
|Date 30 March 1651 – 17 April 1986 (335 years, 2 weeks and 4 days) Location Isles of Scilly Result Status quo ante bellum|
|Isles of Scilly||Dutch Republic|
Digital History. The Civil War was the deadliest war in American history. Altogether, over 600,000 died in the conflict, more than World War I and World War II combined. A soldier was 13 times more likely to die in the Civil War than in the Vietnam War.What was the worst war in America? ›
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 is the most deaths in human history? ›
Table ranking "History's Most Deadly Events": Influenza pandemic (1918-19) 20-40 million deaths; black death/plague (1348-50), 20-25 million deaths, AIDS pandemic (through 2000) 21.8 million deaths, World War II (1937-45), 15.9 million deaths, and World War I (1914-18) 9.2 million deaths.What was the most deaths in one day in history? ›
It was a Thursday in January
The deadliest earthquake in human history is at the heart of the deadliest day in human history. On January 23, 1556, more people died than on any day by a wide margin.
The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783), also known as the Revolutionary War or American War of Independence, was the military conflict of the American Revolution in which American Patriot forces under George Washington's command defeated the British, establishing and securing the ...
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.Who stopped the War of 1812? ›
On February 18, 1815, the Treaty of Ghent was officially ratified by President Madison, and the nation ended the War of 1812 with "less a shout of triumph than a sigh of relief." 15,000 Americans died during the war.Who were the first Anglo? ›
The Anglo-Saxons were migrants from northern Europe who settled in England in the fifth and sixth centuries.What's the shortest war? ›
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.What was the first Anglo war? ›
The First Anglo-Maratha War (1775–1782) was the first of three major Anglo-Maratha wars fought between the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire in India. The war began with the capture of Raigad Fort by a British force under Colonel Keating on 14 November 1775.Who never lost a battle in world history? ›
In antiquity, no one stands taller than Alexander the Great - the young military genius who never once lost a battle and established a vast empire that heralded a new historical era.Who is the undefeated war? ›
Sher Shah Suri - (1486 – 22 May 1545), born Farīd Khān, was the founder of the Suri Empire in India, with its capital in Sasaram in modern-day Bihar. In this seven years of his reign he never lost a battle.Who was the very first war? ›
The remains have been dated to the Mesolithic era, over 13,000 years ago. 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 is Zanzibar called now? ›
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.Who owns Zanzibar? ›
It's a partly self-governing state in Tanzania; it's not an independent country. The archipelago was once the separate state of Zanzibar, which united with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous within the union, with its own government.
The island of Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) became a possession of the south Arabian state of Muscat and Oman in the late 17th century; Saʿīd ibn Sulṭān, who created a flourishing commercial empire along the East African coast, made it his capital in 1832.What nationality is Zanzibar? ›
Today, Zanzibar is inhabited mostly by ethnic Swahili. There are also a number of Arabs, as well as some ethnic Persian, Somalis, and Indian people.Is Zanzibar African or Indian? ›
Zanzibar, Swahili Unguja, island in the Indian Ocean, lying 22 miles (35 km) off the coast of east-central Africa. In 1964 Zanzibar, together with Pemba Island and some other smaller islands, joined with Tanganyika on the mainland to form the United Republic of Tanzania.Is it safe to go to Zanzibar? ›
Zanzibar is mostly safe to visit, and with the right precautions, you shouldn't be in any danger. However, keep an eye on your valuables as petty theft is common in the country, especially around tourist attractions. Violent crime is rare, but it does occur.How many Arabs were killed in Zanzibar? ›
|600–800 men||Zanzibar Police Force|
|Casualties and losses|
|At least 80 killed and 200 injured during revolution (the majority were Arabs) 2,000–4,000 (up to 20,000) civilians killed in the aftermath|
In 1890, Germany and Great Britain concluded the Treaty of Helgoland-Zanzibar, which settled many of their numerous and complex colonial issues in Africa. The territorial exchange of British-held Helgoland and German-held Zanzibar, which was part of this agreement, had a major impact in its finalization.What is Zanzibar culture? ›
Zanzibar's Swahili culture is the result of a fusion of African, Asian and European influences meeting here. Historically Zanzibar was an important staging post for explorers and traders, and a key trading centre for spices and a centre for the slave trade.How many wars did America lose? ›
America fought five major wars after 1945 including Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan in addition to some minor wars in Somalia, Yemen, and Libya. Except for the Gulf War in 1991, America lost all other wars.How long has America been at peace? ›
In an almost unbroken stream of wars and fighting, the U.S. expanded from 13 colonies to 50 states. The U.S. has also annexed or conquered five territories. It has military bases in about 80 foreign countries and territories. Since 1776, the U.S. has been at peace for just one out of every 20 years.What is the oldest war in the world? ›
The first war in recorded history took place in Mesopotamia in c. 2700 BCE between Sumer and Elam.
|War or conflict||Start date||Duration|
|Byzantine–Arab wars||780||400 years|
|Yaqui Wars||1533||396 years|
|Yemeni–Ottoman conflicts||1538||373 years|
|Moroccan–Portuguese conflicts||1415||354 years|
Interesting question. Historians might quibble over the exact details, but by most accounts, there are no periods in history that have been free from war.What war lasted 600 years? ›
The Roman-Persian Wars lasted an astonishing 681 years, during which time the Romans fought two successive Iranian empires, the Parthian Empire and the Sasanian Empire. The warfare began around 54 B.C.E., when Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus led an invasion of Mesopotamia.How long is the Anglo-Zanzibar War? ›
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.Where is Anglo-Zanzibar? › How long was the Anglo-Zanzibar War? ›
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.What is the shortest war in 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.What is the quick history of Zanzibar? ›
A semi-autonomous region
In 1963, Zanzibar was granted independence as a member of the Commonwealth with a ruling Sultan. However, in 1964, the government in Zanzibar was overthrown by a revolution led by 600 Zanzibaris. The Sultan was deposed, and a new People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba was proclaimed.
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. Even though it was over quickly, it had wide-ranging consequences, resulting in hundreds of deaths and changing the face of the Zanzibari government.What happened in Zanzibar in 1964? ›
The Zanzibar Révolution of 1964, the most violent outbreak of anti-Arab violence in postcolonial African history, led to the demise of the Sultan of Zanzibar and his Arab government and the merging of the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba with the then-British colony of Tanganyika into the nation of Tanzania.
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.Who rules Zanzibar now? ›
Zanzibar is popularly known as the "spice islands.” Zanzibar is located about 30Km off the coast of mainland Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar is actually an archipelago with the two main Islands of Zanzibar (also known as Unguja, the larger one) and Pemba (the smaller of the two).Is Zanzibar still called Zanzibar? ›
Is Zanzibar a country? It's a partly self-governing state in Tanzania; it's not an independent country. The archipelago was once the separate state of Zanzibar, which united with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous within the union, with its own government.Who conquered Zanzibar? ›
The Portuguese then came in the 16th century and conquered all the seaports on the eastern African coast, including Mombasa, the richest and most powerful, as well as such islands as Zanzibar and parts of the Arabian coast, including the Omani capital of Muscat.What caused the 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.Who owns Zanzibar now? ›
The Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous province of Tanzania.Was there slavery in Zanzibar Island? ›
By the 19th century, the Zanzibar Sultanate stood out for being the main slave market in Eastern Africa due to its strategic location in the Indian Ocean. It is estimated that between 1830 and 1873, around 600,000 people were sold as merchandise and thousands of other people visited the place temporarily.What is Zanzibar most famous event? ›
Eid-el-Fitr is the festival at the end of Ramadhan, the month of fasting and it is the biggest the most respected of all festivals in Zanzibar.