The shortest war in history lasted 38 minutes.
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The shortest war in history lasted 38 minutes.

If only all wars were as short as the Anglo-Zanzibar War. Lasting only 38 minutes, this conflict — which took place off the coast of Tanzania in 1896 — is largely considered to be the shortest war in human history. Under the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty, signed between Germany and Britain in 1890, the island archipelago known as Zanzibar was placed under British control, while mainland Tanzania remained the possession of Imperial Germany. Six years later, when the pro-British sultan of Zanzibar suddenly died, his cousin (and possible assassin) Khalid bin Barghash took on the role of sultan within hours of the leader’s death — all without the blessing of the British. 

The U.K. has no colonies in Africa anymore.
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It's a Fib
The U.K.’s decolonization of Africa began in the 1950s and largely ended by 1976 with the liberation of the Seychelles, an archipelago off the coast of East Africa. In 2023, Britain entered talks with Mauritius over relinquishing its last African colony, the Chagos Islands.

Not too happy about this suspected coup, Britain’s chief diplomat for the area, Basil Cave, was put in charge of resolving the conflict. By August 25, 1896, Khalid had gathered some 3,000 fighters and an impressive array of artillery around the palace to protect his reign. That evening, three British men-of-war were in the nearby harbor (joined by an additional two ships the following morning). Cave sent one last ultimatum on the evening of the 26th, demanding evacuation of the palace by 9 a.m. the following morning. Khalid replied one hour before the deadline: “We have no intention of hauling down our flag and we do not believe you would open fire on us.” He was sorely mistaken, and the British opened fire at 9:02 a.m. After a 38-minute bombardment (although precise counts for the duration vary slightly) — during which Khalid escaped through a back exit — the palace lowered its flag and history’s shortest war came to an end.

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Numbers Don’t Lie
Main islands in the Zanzibar Archipelago
Year Zanzibar joined with former British colony Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania
Length (in years) of history’s longest war, known as the Reconquista (711 to 1492)
Year soul and R&B singer Edwin Starr released his cover of counterculture anthem “War”
The famous rock singer _______ was born in Zanzibar in 1946.
The famous rock singer Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar in 1946.
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Think Twice
Tanzania is home to one of the greatest migrations in the world.

Tanzania is home to the Serengeti, the setting of one of the world’s most stunning migrations. Every year, 1.5 million wildebeest, along with scores of zebras and gazelles, travel a loop in the Serengeti plains in search of grazing grounds — a journey known as the “Great Migration.” The massive herd gallops north at the beginning of the year to a savanna just over the border in Kenya called Masai Mara. Then, in November, the animals move back south toward the Serengeti. In 1951, the Serengeti plains became a national park; they were also one of the first locations proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1972. Today, conservation groups work to protect the vulnerable area from industrialization, farming, and poaching.

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