The world’s shortest world war limited to 38 minutes. Usually, when we have heard about the war, we are reminded of years of damage that destroy lives and property.

The war between Islamic & Christian kingdoms to conquer the Iberian peninsula lasted 781 years, It is considered the longest war in the world. About 66 wars over 100 years of written history are recorded. The strength of power bases affected the duration of the war.

If power is equal there will be a protracted war. Today we are going to discuss the short-lived war between Great Britain & Zanzibar. (The Anglo- Zanzibar war)

Location of Zanzibar
Picture: Location of Zanzibar

Location and history of Zanzibar.

Zanzibar has located 35km from Tanzania in East Africa in the Indian Ocean.
Zanzibar has two main islands and several smaller islands. It has a small area of about 600 square miles. Arabs, Comorians, Bantu people lived there.

Vasco da Gama first landed in Zanzibar in 1499. Then Zanzibar was conquered by the Portuguese in 1503. In 1698, the Sultan of Oman gained the power of Zanzibar after defeating the Portuguese.

A slave market in Zanzibar
Picture: A slave market in Zanzibar

The importance of location and market value of Zanzibar

High economic development was achieved under the sultan of Oman. There were three main sections of that economy. The first one was agriculture, based on spices. The second was the ivory trade. The ivory o dead elephants in Tanganyika sold by Zanzibar. The third was the slave trade. It provided all the labour needed for the sultan’s agricultural works.

 The slave trade in Zanzibar ,taken under Arabia whichwas still prossession in the 19th Century
Picture: The slave trade in Zanzibar, taken under Arabia which
was still possession in the 19th Century

Environment for war

In 1856, after the death of Oman sultan, Said Bin, there was a struggle for the throne between his sons Majid Bin Said and Tuwani Bin Said. But later Tuwani Bin Said became the sultan of Oman and Majid Bin Said became the sultan of Zanzibar. The Zanzibar gained some independence from 1865.

[21/12, 21:10] ZEed: Around 1880, Germany & Great Britain were in a power struggle for the African region. Hence they entered into a power struggle for this Zanzibar. However, the ruler of Zanzibar, Khalifa Bin Said III ceded the northern part(present-day Kenya )of Zanzibar to Britain and the southern part (Present-day Tanzania) to Germany. Later the slave trade was banned in these areas. It caused the displeasure of Arab rulers in these areas.

Germany and Britain then waited to conquer Zanzibar. But the British used the usual tactics to make Zanzibar a state under their protection. In 1890, Ali bin Said banned the slave trade but did not prohibit the keeping of slaves.
Hamad bin Tuwani who came to power after Ali bin Allowed Britain to rule as they wished. He banned the slave trade and It was a severe blow to the spices trade.

Sultan Humad Bin Thuwani
Picture: Sultan Humad Bin Thuwani

Sultan Humad died on 25th August in 1896. This death was suspected as a plan of Khalid Bin Barash.

After Zanzibar becomes the kingdom under the protection of England that has an agreement. According to that before becomes Sultan he had to Ger permission from the British government. But Khalid didn’t care about this. He recruited 2800 people including citizens for his army and his plan was to make Zanzibar an independent kingdom and start a slave business again. But England wanted to set someone as a sultan who is loyal to England. So they wanted Humad Bin Mohammad to become the next sultan. So the British army threat Khalid to leave the palace with his 2800 men army.

Sultan Khalid Bin Bargash
Picture: Sultan Khalid Bin Barghash

After that Britain forces keep threatening Barghash to give up the throne or rule the city under their conditions. Instead of listening to British forces sultan decided to Raise Red flag in the palace and prepared for the war.

On August 26 British army introduced few conditions for the sultan but he rejected all of them. So the British warned him to give up the throne or otherwise the British gonna attack palace at the 9.00 a.m on August 27.

Zanzibar Palace
Picture: Zanzibar Palace


The next day (August 27) the Sultan sent a message saying, “We are not ready to lower our flags, but we hope you will not attack us.”In reply, the British said, “We have no need to do that, but if you do not do what we asked, we will definitely attack.”

The British had an army of about 1,050 troops (about 150 British and 900 Zanzibar soldiers) with 3 warships and 2 war boats.

The Sultan had an infantry of about 2800, a small boat and His royal vessel(H.H.H Glasgow), which had turned into a warship. The ship, owned by the Sultan, was also donated by the British, all of their weapons were centuries old, imported from Oman. Some of them also were donated by the British to Zanzibar. Clearly, this was a one-sided fight.

After the artillery attack on the Zanzibar Palace
Picture: After the artillery attack on the Zanzibar Palace

British General Lloyd Mathews, who had not received a reply from the Sultan until nine in the morning, ordered the British warship to attack Zanzibar. At 9.02 a.m. the three British ships Rukosh, Thrash and Sparrow began to attack the palace simultaneously. The “Glasgow” Ship of Zanzibar launched a counterattack on the British ship St. George using British supplied weapons. However, the Glasgow ship began to sink in the face of heavy retaliation from the St. George’s. The Glasgow then hoisted three British flags and declared its surrender. They were rescued by British ships and the other two small ships of Zanzibar also were destroyed by the “Thrash”.

The British navy attacked the land, destroying buildings and setting the palace on fire. Shortly after the start of the war, the artillery of Zanzibar was silenced and the flags of the palace were cut off. At about 9.40 the battle ended and the British captured the city and the palace.

 British Marines in front of an artillery belonging tothe Sultan of Zanzibar
Picture: British Marines in front of artillery belonging to
the Sultan of Zanzibar


Angelo Zanzibar war was started as a one-sided battle and it was ended in 38 minutes. And it is known as the world’s shortest recorded war in history. At the beginning of the battle, Sultan Khalid Bin Bargash and his supporters escaped the city and normal people had to fight against British forces. After 38 minutes war was ended and more than 500 Zanzibar people were injured or died and only one England soldier was injured or died.

After that England decided to give the throne of Zanzibar to Humad Bin Mohammad because of his loyalty to the British government. He ruled Zanzibar until he dies in 1902. And sultan Khalid Bin Barghash was arrested by British Army.


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