Originally a period of belligerency which preceded a declaration of war. Where a grievance existed against another country for acts committed, which might not rate a full declaration of war, the aggrieved nation could declare a state of reprisal, and undertake operations short of war until its grievances were settled. It was usually the signal to issue letters of marque. Needless to say, a declaration of reprisal almost invariably drifted into full-scale war.
Subjects: Maritime History.