The Truth About The Shortest War In World History

Wars can last forever. After all, there's such a thing called the Hundred Years' War between France and England and their allies. You know, the war where Joan of Arc died at the stake. But some wars barely last a blip.

The shortest war in history is the Anglo-Zanzibar War in 1896, which lasted a grand total of 38 to 40 minutes. The conflict laid bare the military might of England and showed the Zanzibari sultan's determination to stand his ground.

First, a little background. Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, was controlled by the British. Germany occupied Tanzania itself. The British installed Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini to rule over Zanzibar, wrote Historic UK. Hamad was sympathetic to the British, but he died under debatable circumstances, and his nephew Khalid bin Bargash swooped in and took power. The British were not happy.

According to History Today, the British reminded Khalid that new sultans had to be approved by them. Khalid didn't back down and instead amassed nearly 3,000 defenders by August 25, 1896. The British, who had several warships in the area, issued an ultimatum. Either Khalid stepped down and let the British choose a sultan or face the British forces' might. He refused.

No one thought the British would actually fire

By August 26, two more warships entered the Zanzibar harbor, said Historic UK. The British ultimatum ended August 27.

Sultan Khalid still refused to bow to British demands. History Today explained he firmly believed the British would never open fire on the palace. He was wrong. By 9:02 am, the Zanzibari artillery was destroyed. A few more minutes later, the palace's wooden structure trembled with the 3,000 defenders inside. The Zanzibarian navy fell to the British. The sultan escaped the palace.

At 9:40 am, the firing stopped. One British soldier was wounded; 500 of the sultan's men died. The British installed Sultan Hamud, who ruled Zanzibar for six years. As for Khalid? He escaped to the German consulate. The New York Times reported the Germans refused to surrender Khalid, who claimed it was his rightful throne.

After the war, Zanzibar never rebelled again. Khalid got asylum in Germany but was captured by the British. He died in Kenya in 1927. And thus ended the world's shortest war.