On This Day: Anglo-Zanzibar War, history’s shortest war, begins and ends


Lasting around 38 minutes, the war saw only a single British soldier wounded, while the Zanzibari suffered 500 casualties and a lopsided defeat. August 27 marks 125 years since the Anglo-Zanzibar War, widely regarded as the shortest war in history, lasting between 38 and 45 minutes total. The background to the war is rooted in European colonialism in Africa during the 19th century. Specifically, British designs on the Zanzibar Sultanate, a sovereign island nation off the coast of East Africa that today forms part of the nation of Tanzania. Essentially, the war was rooted in the death of Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini just two days earlier. Thuwaini was favorable to the British and had made agreements in the past to become a British protectorate. The British were worried about the new sultan, Khalid bin Barghash, as he was not as favorable to their interests. Under the protectorate agreement, the successor to the sultan should be approved by the British consul. Because Barghash did not do this, it was seen as a casus belli.

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