Daily TWiP Archives

Something interesting has happened on (just about) every day of the year, and Daily TWiP provides the proof. An offshoot of my local events column The Week in Preview (affectionately known as TWiP), Daily TWiP was published April 2008-Aug. 2011 and is still giving readers reasons to celebrate.

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Daily TWiP – Aug. 27, 1896: The shortest war in recorded history is fought

On Aug. 27, 1896, the Anglo-Zanzibar War, a conflict that might otherwise have faded away with the passage of time, made history (and likely the Guinness Book of World Records) when it clocked in as the shortest war in recorded history. From the first shot fired to the end of the fighting, it lasted all of 38 minutes.

At the time, Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) was a protectorate of the British Empire, enjoying favorable trade relations with Britain and British military protection in exchange for certain concessions. One such concession was that the Sultan of Zanzibar had to be approved by the British government.

On Aug. 25, 1896, Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini died unexpectedly. His nephew, Khalid bin Bargash (whom some suspected had poisoned the Sultan), laid claim to the throne and moved into the palace.

The British government intended to appoint Hamud bin Muhammed as Sultan, as he was more supportive of their goals in Zanzibar. Khalid was warned that unless he vacated the palace, there would be serious consequences.

He ignored the warnings, believing the British military wouldn’t really fire upon the palace, and began assembling troops. So did the British.

That same day, a half-hour after his uncle’s burial, Khalid proclaimed himself Sultan, fully knowing this constituted an open act of rebellion against the British. The British government authorized the military to use force if a peaceful resolution could not be reached.

After further negotiations proved futile, Khalid was issued an ultimatum: take down your flag and be out of the palace by 9 a.m. Aug. 27, or face the consequences. Khalid refused to back down, and the British Royal Navy opened fire on the palace at 9:02 a.m.

A surrender was soon received and the bombardment ceased at 9:40 a.m. Khalid fled the palace during the fighting, claiming asylum at the German consulate, and was ultimately exiled. Five hundred of his supporters perished or were injured in the war, mostly due to fires that had broken out in the palace due to the bombardment. The British military sustained only a single casualty.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Aug. 27, 2009.

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