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Study Notes


AS, A-Level
Edexcel, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Sovereignty is the term used to mean the right of a government to rule and govern itself. In other words, it is the concept that a government has a right to govern its own territory, without interference from other bodies.

Over the last hundred years the concept of sovereignty has become more complex in its definition, with territories seeking independence from ‘mother countries’. The growth of global, or at least international, organisations such as NATO, G8, and the European Union has meant that this concept is no longer absolute; membership of these organisations means that some sovereignty is given up.

For example, membership of the European Union means that member states must abide by the treaties and rules of the EU.

It is important to distinguish between de jure and de facto sovereignty. De jure sovereignty means that a government has a legal right to control over a particular territory. De facto sovereignty, however, refers to whether that government actually has control over the territory.

In the UK, it is assumed that there is parliamentary sovereignty, and in the US that there is constitutional sovereignty.

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