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In political theory, the ultimate authority in the decision-making process of the state and in the maintenance of order. In 16th-century France Jean Bodin used the concept of sovereignty to bolster the power of the king over his feudal lords, heralding the transition from feudalism to nationalism. By the end of the 18th century, the concept of the social contract led to the idea of popular sovereignty, or sovereignty of the people, through an organized government. The Hague Conventions, the Geneva Conventions, and the United Nations all have restricted the actions of sovereign countries in the international arena, as has international law.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on sovereignty, visit Britannica.com.