History is filled with wars and conflicts, and it’s easy to lose track of some of the lesser-known political battles throughout the ages. One obscure war is worth remembering, however: The Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896, widely regarded as the shortest war in all of history.
In 1890, Britain and Germany signed a treaty dividing up their respective imperial influence throughout East Africa. Britain gained control of Zanzibar at this time and installed a sultan, Hamad bin Thuwaini, to oversee the region.
Unfortunately, Thuwaini died unexpectedly just three years later under suspicious circumstances. Within hours of his death, his cousin Khalid bin Barghash had moved into the palace and taken over the role of sultan.
British diplomats did not take well to this unexpected shift in power, and they immediately ordered Barghash to stand down. Instead, he barricaded himself into his palace and called out a force of 3,000 armed men to defend him. Britain responded immediately with troops and war ships, and a brief stand-off began as Barghash was given an ultimatum.
When he failed to comply, a frenzied battle began. Barghash escaped from the palace almost immediately as it began to collapse under the artillery fire.
All told, the battle lasted just 38 minutes and had more than 500 casualties. Another pro-British sultan was installed in Zanzibar soon after.