The shortest conflict in history: The Anglo-Zanzibar War 27 August 1896

The conflict was triggered by the death of 39-year-old Zanzibar Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini, a loyal ally of the colonial British Empire, on August 25, 1896. His nephew Sultan Khalid bin Barghash (1874 – 1874) seized the opportunity to seize… the throne. However, he was not liked by the English, who preferred his uncle Hamud bin Muhammed (1853 – 1902).

The English colonists demanded the immediate resignation of Barghash, with an ultimatum ending at 9am on the 27th of August. He refused and tried to save time by bringing the Americans into the game. The English, for their part, began war preparations. They lined up five warships in front of the port of Zanzibar and began disembarking marines ashore.

Barghash tried to buy time by continuing the negotiations, but the English were determined to enforce their will. Two minutes after the end of the ultimatum, the sultanate’s harem came under bombardment, and was almost leveled. Barghash just managed to escape and sought political asylum at the German consulate. At 9:40 am the Anglo-Zanzibar War is over.

The 38-minute clash cost the lives of 500 local fighters, with the English casualties amounting to only one injured. Immediately afterward, they elected as sultan Hamud bin Muhammed, who demanded and succeeded in obtaining compensation for the cost of the shortest war in the history of mankind.

Zanzibar is an island complex of East Africa, part of Tanzania since 1964. The ancient Greeks knew it as Menuthias. In the 19th century it was one of the largest slave trade centers on the African continent, which the British abolished in 1897, a year after the short-lived war of August 27, 1896.