Little Bits of History

War is Hell

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 27, 2013
Anglo-Zanzibar War - sultan's harem after the bombing

Anglo-Zanzibar War – sultan’s harem after the bombing

August 27, 1896: The Anglo-Zanzibar War begins – and ends. The entire war lasted 38 minutes and is considered to be the shortest war in recorded history. Zanzibar was an English colony when the sun smiled on the British Empire. Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini had been cooperating with British colonial administrators. The Sultan died on August 24 and his nephew, Khalid bin Barghash, seized control.

The Brits would have preferred to have Hamud bin Muhammed as leader, since they felt he would be more amenable to their presence. They issued an ultimatum to Barghash who refused to abdicate. Instead, he began to assemble an army of nearly 3,000 men, mostly extended family members. The highest ranking among his army was a colonel. Barghash also brought the Sultan’s yacht into service as his navy.

The British marshaled their own forces. Two battalions of foot soldiers, about 900 men, were backed by the British naval presence. Five ships were brought to the harbor, three of them modern protected cruisers and two gunboats. General Lloyd Mathews led the British forces. The new Sultan used a United States representative on the island to attempt a peaceful negotiation or resolution, but diplomacy failed.

The ultimatum ran out at 9 AM and the British navy began its bombardment of the island. They soon sunk the Zanzibar navy and began shelling the palace. Barghash escaped to the German consulate. After 38 minutes, it was all over. The Germans refused to hand over Barghash who escaped the island on October 2, 1896. Barghash was captured by the British in 1916. He was permitted to live on the island of Mombasa until his death in 1927. After the installation of a more malleable government, the British demanded payment for the shells fired during the war. The British contingency suffered only one casualty when one soldier was wounded. The Zanzibar forces saw about 500 men killed.

“The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.” – David Friedman

“The most persistent sound which reverberates through men’s history is the beating of war drums.” – Arthur Koestler

“War! that mad game the world so loves to play.” – Jonathan Swift

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” – Plato

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Today, Zanzibar is semi-autonomous but part of Tanzania in East Africa. It is comprised of two islands, Unguja and Pemba and the capital is Zanzibar City. The two islands cover 1,020 square miles and have a population of 1.3 million. The President is Ali Mohamed Shein. The lands were first settled around 1000 AD. The historic center of the capital is called Stone Town and is a World Heritage Site. The islands are known for the spice trade since they grow cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper there. It is why they, along with Mafia Island are sometimes called the Spice Islands. They also grow raffia, a type of palm tree which is used for textile purposes and in construction. Their other major industry is tourism. The islands gained their independence from Great Britain on December 10, 1963 and only a month later the Zanzibar Revolution took place. In April of 1964, the republic and Tanganyika merged and formed the United Republic of Tanzania, with Zanzibar remaining semi-autonomous.

Also on this day: Powerful Industry – In 1859, the modern day oil industry starts.
Kǒng Qiū – In 551 BC, Confucius is born.
Sculptor – In 1498, Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Pieta.

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