British marines pose with a captured Zanzibari gun following the 45-minute Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896.

Photograph by Richard Dorsey Mohun, U.S. Department of State

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  • On August 27, 1896, the shortest war in history was fought between the British Empire and rebel forces of the Zanzibar Sultanate (now Zanzibar, Tanzania). The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between 9:02 and 9:40 a.m., and ended in a victory for the British, who strengthened their influence over the tropical archipelago. The Zanzibar Sultanate remained a protectorate of the United Kingdom until 1964.

    Despite the short duration, about 500 Zanzibaris were killed or wounded, and one British soldier was injured. One of the most affected areas of Zanzibar was its Indian quarter, populated by immigrants from India, “the jewel in the crown” of the British Empire and less than 4,615 kilometers (2,868 miles) across the Indian Ocean. Many of these immigrants worked for the British authorities, and the British recruited Indian (Sikh) soldiers to help restore order after the half-hour war.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    archipelago Noun

    a group of closely scattered islands in a large body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: archipelago
    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    protectorate Noun

    territory controlled by another state or nation but not a part of it.

    rebel Verb

    to resist or reject.

    recruit Verb

    to work to supply a group with new members.

    Sikh adjective, noun

    people and culture that believe in one God, equality, freedom of religion, and community service 

    tropical Adjective

    existing in the tropics, the latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.

    war Noun

    large-scale armed conflict.