This Is the Shortest War in History

Americans have fought in many short wars. World Wars I and II were conflicts in which the United States participated for less than five years each. The Civil War was similarly short. Yet, over the course of history, some wars have been much shorter than these.

To determine the shortest war in history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a list of major international conflicts that lasted less than a month, as compiled by The Independent.

The shortest wars in history span all different time periods and locations on the globe. One conflict on this list occurred nearly 1,000 years ago, while another ended in 2008. These wars took place in Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America and the Middle East.

It can be difficult to pin down exactly when many wars started, given that their beginnings are often messy and irregular. Sometimes they begin with small skirmishes before they evolve into full-on conflicts.

These brief wars are not the norm. Often, armed conflicts can drag out for months, if not years. Also, many wars are the result of long-simmering conflicts that devolved into war, with countries fighting on and off for generations.

The shortest war in history is the Anglo-Zanzibar War. It lasted 38 minutes on Aug. 27, 1896.

In the late 19th century, Zanzibar was a British protectorate. The sultan of Zanzibar died in 1896, leaving several potential successors in line for the throne. The British wanted Hamud ibn Mohammed to ascend to the throne because they thought he would be friendly to the Empire, but Prince Khalid ibn Barghash seized the palace.

A British Royal Navy admiral ordered Barghash out of the palace, but he refused to leave. The Zanzibari forces were hopelessly outgunned by the far superior British naval forces and hundreds were killed, while only one British troop was even wounded. The war ended in under 40 minutes with Barghash’s surrender.

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