The World's Shortest War

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). We've invited him to share some of his stories on mental_floss this week. To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Off the coast of mainland Tanzania is Zanzibar, now a semi-autonomous archipelago but part of Tanzania proper. In 1890, Zanzibar was a British protectorate, but in 1964, after an uprising, it joined with Tanzania (then “Tanganyika”) to form the modern-day country of the same name.

The uprising which led to Zanzibar’s independence from Britain was not the archipelago’s first. On August 27, 1896, the British Empire and Zanzibar went to war—for forty minutes. Before an hour had elapsed, the Anglo-Zanzibar war was over.

Two days prior, Zanzibar’s Sultan, Hamad bin Thuwaini, died suddenly. His would-be successor, his cousin Khalid bin Bargash (whom many believed poisoned Hamad), was disfavored by the British—the Empire wished for Hamoud bin Muhammad to take Hamadi’s place. And, under a treaty signed a decade earlier, the British Empire had to approve of the successor in order for him to successfully accede to the throne. Khalid refused to seek this approval. This British termed this an act of war, and gave Khalid until 9 a.m. local time on the 27th to cede the throne. Khalid responded by barricading himself in the palace, defended by the palace guards.

As 9 a.m. approached, so did the British forces. With more than 1,000 land troops amassed and five ships—two gunboats and three cruisers—the British forces were formidable. The Sultan countered with 2,800 men of his own, albeit not as well armed or trained; a royal yacht and two other boats (akin to large motorboats); and a quartet of artillery batteries. Thirty minutes before the ultimatum struck, the Sultan sent a message to the British diplomatic point of contact, Basil Cave, stating that he had no intention of ceding his throne and did not believe the British would open fire.  Cave responded by reiterating the ultimatum: step down by 9 a.m. or prepare for a rain of artillery.

And at exactly 9 a.m., the gunships received their orders: fire. Within minutes, the royal palace received the promised ammunition. The Zanzibari royal yacht, the HMS Glasgow, did its best to stave off the attacks by firing its weapons at one of the warships—but by 9:15, the British navy sunk the Glasgow and the two other Zanzibari boats. The attacks on the palace killed or wounded more than 500 Zanzibaris in about a half hour, and Sultan Khalid bin Bargash fled for the German consulate, where he successfully sought asylum.

At 9:40, hostilities ceased and the Sultan’s flag atop the palace came down. By most accounts, this 40-minute war is the shortest in human history.

In the end, Britian placed Hamoud bin Muhammad in the throne, a position he would serve in until his death in 1902. During his British-backed reign, Sultan Hamoud, to his credit, ended slavery on the island.

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war

It's Official: Benedict Cumberbatch Is Confirmed for Doctor Strange Sequel

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Just when Marvel fans began focusing all of their attention on poring over even the tiniest details in the Avengers: Endgame trailer, Marvel has announced that a Doctor Strange sequel is officially happening.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Scott Derrickson will return to the director’s chair, and although he co-wrote the first film alongside Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, no writer has been announced for the second outing yet.

Benedict Cumberbatch will, of course, reprise his role as Dr. Stephen Strange, and Benedict Wong will be returning as Wong. Industry insiders suspect Rachel McAdams will be back as Strange’s love interest, Dr. Christine Palmer, but no formal announcement has been made.

We last saw Doctor Strange earlier this year in Avengers: Infinity War, where he sadly disintegrated into dust at the hands of Thanos’s snap. As most fan theories believe, many of our favorite superheroes will be brought back to life in Avengers: Endgame, which will be the next time we see Cumberbatch’s character. Although his appearance in Avengers: Endgame might only be through flashbacks, and Doctor Strange 2 could still take place before Infinity War, it’s not likely.

Sources say production is being eyed for a spring 2020 start, with a suspected release date around spring 2021. But a lot can happen between now and then, especially depending on what Avengers: Endgame reveals.

George RR Martin Swears He'll Finish The Winds of Winter—He Just Won't Say When

Rich Polk, Getty Images for IMDb
Rich Polk, Getty Images for IMDb

It would be an understatement to say Game of Thrones fans are in a bit of distress right now. For one, we have the eighth and final season of the HBO series, which will premiere in April, looming over us. At the same time, we’re scrambling to gather any information we can about the Game of Thrones prequel series. But above all, we’re waiting for George RR Martin to finish The Winds of Winter, the next novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, which inspired the beloved TV show.

The Winds of Winter has been particularly difficult for Martin to finish, according to the acclaimed author. In order to keep active, he has focused his efforts on other projects, such as his recently released companion book Fire and Blood. This perceived procrastination hasn't sat well with his fans—some of whom are convinced we will never see his ending to the story.

Martin has heard all the complaints, and took to his blog on December 10 to give an update on the novel that fans have been awaiting for more than seven years, writing:

"[M]y thanks go out to my fans and readers. I know you want WINDS, and I am going to give it to you ... but I am delighted that you stayed with me for [the new book Fire & Blood] as well. Your patience and unflagging support means the world to me. Enjoy the read. Me, I am back in my fortress of solitude, and back in Westeros. It won’t be tomorrow, and it won’t be next week, but you will get the end of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE."

While there's no reason to doubt the veracity of Martin's promise, fans are understandably still skeptical. After The Winds of Winter, there’s still one more novel, A Dream of Spring, to close out the story. At this point, we’re probably better off counting down the days until Game of Thrones's final season premieres ... or the prequel series.

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