What Is the Shortest War in World History?

Have you ever wondered what the shortest war in world history was? It might surprise you to know that it lasted only a matter of hours.

This brief but intense conflict took place in Africa and involved two countries fighting over a small patch of land. In this article, we will take a closer look at the details of this war and how it ended so quickly.


The year was 1896, and the two countries involved were Great Britain and Zanzibar. At the time, Zanzibar was a small island off the coast of East Africa that was ruled by a sultan who was supported by the British government. However, when the sultan died unexpectedly, his successor, Sultan Khalid bin Barghash, refused to step down and instead declared himself the new ruler.

This move did not sit well with Great Britain, who saw it as an affront to their authority in the region. The British government demanded that Khalid step down immediately or face consequences. When he refused their ultimatum, they decided to take action.

The War

On August 27th, 1896, British warships arrived off the coast of Zanzibar with orders to bombard the palace where Khalid was holed up. The sultan’s forces were no match for the firepower of the British navy and were quickly defeated.

The entire conflict lasted only 38 minutes from start to finish, making it officially recognized as the shortest war in world history. In that time period, around 500 Zanzibari soldiers and civilians were killed or injured while only one British sailor suffered minor injuries.


With Khalid’s forces defeated and his palace destroyed, he fled into exile while Zanzibar came under British control. The short duration of the conflict was due in part to technological advancements in warfare at the time, which gave the British navy a significant advantage. Additionally, the sultan’s forces were poorly trained and ill-equipped to handle a modern military.

The Zanzibar War serves as a reminder of how quickly conflicts can escalate and how important it is to have strong diplomatic ties between countries to prevent such situations from arising in the first place.


In conclusion, the shortest war in world history was fought between Great Britain and Zanzibar in 1896. Lasting only 38 minutes, it was a brief but intense conflict that resulted in significant casualties on the Zanzibari side. The war ended with British control over Zanzibar and serves as a reminder of the importance of diplomacy to prevent such conflicts from occurring in the first place.