How Long Was The Shortest War In History ( And Why)?

How Long Was The Shortest War In History ( And Why)?

Exact Answer: Between 38 and 45 minutes (Approximately)

Anglo-Zanzibar war is the shortest war in history. If we look into the history of the world, history is full of wars. War took place due to many reasons such as economic gain, territorial gain, revenge, defensive war, nationalism, reputation, etc. The Anglo-Zanzibar is the shortest war of all times.

The Anglo-Zanzibar war was between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar sultanate. The war took place at Zanzibar town, Zanzibar Sultanate, now a part of Tanzania. Zanzibar is an island best known today for its captivating beaches. In the 19th century, Zanzibar was a town. The Zanzibar town had a strategically important location on the coast of East Africa in the 19th century.

How Long Was The Shortest War In History 1

How Long Was The Shortest War In History?

The shortest war of history is the Anglo-Zanzibar war of 1896, and it did not last longer than 40 or 45 minutes. The war began in the morning at about 9 am on 27 August 1896. The war started at 9:02 am and ended at 9:40 am with the British victory. However, the war did not last for more than 45 minutes from the outbreak of hostilities.

The war took place at Zanzibar town, Zanzibar Sultanate. The instant cause of the war was the death of Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August, who ruled for about three years at Zanzibar. Sultan Hamad was a pro-British ruler and was much like a puppet king.

After Sultan Hamad’s death, his nephew Khalid bin Barghash seized the throne. However, the British authorities preferred Hamad Bin because he favored the British interests as a sultan. Hamad bin Thuwaini supported the British, and the British used him as a puppet sultan.

The British had firm control over the internal and local affairs of Zanzibar, but their command over Zanzibar ended as soon as Khalid bin Barghash ascended the throne.

One of the causes of the war is the Heligoland- Zanzibar treaty, signed between Britain and Germany. According to the terms of the treaty signed, all the new appointments needed the approval of the British. Hence, when Khalid declared himself the new Sultan, he too was reminded to do the same. Though, he refused to get approval from the British.

Instead of backing down, Khalid barricaded himself in the palace with the security of 2800 defenders. The British response was a piece of gunboat diplomacy. An ultimatum was issued at 8 am on 27 August 1896, warning Khalid to surrender and leave the palace within an hour, or the British would open fire.

Khalid again refused to bow down in front of the British and aimed at the British. An hour and two minutes after the requisition expired, the British opened fire on the palace, demolishing Khalid’s artilleries.

Some of the wars of history which were not long are:

Name of the warDuration
The Anglo-Zanzibar Warbetween 38 and 45 minutes
Indo- Pakistani Warabout 13 days
The Georgian-Armenian Warlasted for 24 days
Greco-Turkish Warlasted for 30 days

Why Was The Shortest War In History So Long?

The British opened fire at 9:00 at the palace after Khalid refused to resign. By 9:02 am the most of Khalid’s artillery had been destroyed. Due to the bombardment, the wooden structure of the palace also started collapsing.

Khalid is also assumed to have escaped from the back exit of the palace leaving behind his fighters. Soon after thirty-eight minutes or forty minutes, the Sultan’s flag was pulled down from the palace, which indicated Sultan’s defeat, and the war was another victory for the British. This was the end of the shortest war of history.


Wars have always caused casualties. Though the war was the shortest, the damage was more. The casualty rates were high for the losing side. In the war, nearly 500 of Khalid’s fighters and civilians were killed or wounded. The death of the soldiers was mainly due to the bombardment of the palace. One of the British fighters was also injured severely, who recovered later.

A lot of damage happened to people as well as to the palace. After the war was over, the pro-British Sultan Hamud Bin Mohammed ascended the throne of the Zanzibar. Khalid ran to Germany where he was under the navy protection of Germany. Eventually, Khalid was caught by the British and was exiled.


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