Punitive expedition

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The American punitive expedition against Malolo, Fiji in 1840 by Alfred Agate. Malolo by Agate.jpg
The American punitive expedition against Malolo, Fiji in 1840 by Alfred Agate.

A punitive expedition is a military journey undertaken to punish a political entity or any group of persons outside the borders of the punishing state or union. It is usually undertaken in response to perceived disobedient or morally wrong behavior by miscreants, as revenge or corrective action, or to apply strong diplomatic pressure without a formal declaration of war (eg surgical strike). In the 19th century, punitive expeditions were used more commonly as pretexts for colonial adventures that resulted in annexations, regime changes or changes in policies of the affected state to favour one or more colonial powers.


Stowell (1921) provides the following definition:

When the territorial sovereign is too weak or is unwilling to enforce respect for international law, a state which is wronged may find it necessary to invade the territory and to chastise the individuals who violate its rights and threaten its security. [1]

Historical examples

The Bombardment of Algiers by the Anglo-Dutch fleet in 1816 to support the ultimatum to release European slaves. Anglo-Dutch fleet in the bay of Algiers as support for the ultimatum demanding the release of white slaves on august 26 1816 (Nicolaas Baur, 1818).jpg
The Bombardment of Algiers by the Anglo–Dutch fleet in 1816 to support the ultimatum to release European slaves.
The French Navy raids San Juan de Ulua (Mexico) during the Pastry War (1838). Episode de l'expedition du Mexique en 1838.jpg
The French Navy raids San Juan de Ulua (Mexico) during the Pastry War (1838).

See also


  1. Stowell 1921, pp. 41–42.
  2. Spiteri, Stephen C. (2013). "In Defence of the Coast (I) - The Bastioned Towers". Arx - International Journal of Military Architecture and Fortification (3): 43. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  3. "A Victory for the Chinese; Japanese Driven with Heavy Loss from Ping-yang". The New York Times . August 22, 1894. p. 5.
  4. "To Punish the Murderers; Great Britain Will Send Another Expedition to Benin City". The New York Times . January 13, 1897. Retrieved 2008-08-24. The Daily News will to-morrow say that the Government has ordered that an expedition be formed to punish the murderers of the Benin City expedition. The punitive expedition, which will be prepared at Old Calaber, will be made up of men from the forces of the Niger Coast Protectorate and a contingent of sailors from the British West African squadron.
  5. Elser, Frank B. (April 14, 1916). "Assure Pershing of Co-operation; Gen. Herrera and Staff Greet Villa's Pursuers After 100-Mile Ride in Desert". The New York Times . Retrieved 2008-08-25. The first Carranza General to exchange formal courtesies with General John J. Pershing, leader of the punitive expedition after Pancho Villa, came riding into camp this afternoon on a pacing gray horse and, seated on an empty hardtack tin, paid his respects, and inquired after the health of the American forces
  6. Ferguson, Niall (May 24, 2005). "Cowboys and Indians". The New York Times . Retrieved 2008-08-25. The United States also faces two other problems that the United Kingdom did not 85 years ago. The British were able to be ruthless: they used air raids and punitive expeditions to inflict harsh collective punishments on villages that supported the insurgents.
  7. Swami, Praveen (24 November 2010). "China is treading on dangerous ground". The Daily Telegraph . Archived from the original on 2011-09-16. Retrieved 2010-12-16. Children who don't listen have to be spanked.

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