A sovereign state is, in international law, a nonphysical juridical entity that is represented by one centralised government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood that a sovereign state is neither dependent on nor subjected to any other power or state.
The existence or disappearance of a state is a question of fact. While according to the declarative theory of statehood, a sovereign state can exist without being recognised by other sovereign states, unrecognised states will often find it hard to exercise full treaty-making powers and engage in diplomatic relations with other sovereign states.
States came into existence as people "gradually transferred their allegiance from an individual sovereign (king, duke, prince) to an intangible but territorial political entity, of the state". States are but one of several political orders that emerged from feudal Europe, others being city states, leagues, and empires with universalist claims to authority.
Westphalian sovereignty is the concept of nation-state sovereignty based on territoriality and the absence of a role for external agents in domestic structures. It is an international system of states, multinational corporations, and organizations that began with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
Sovereignty is a term that is frequently misused. Up until the 19th century, the radicalised concept of a "standard of civilization" was routinely deployed to determine that certain peoples in the world were "uncivilised", and lacking organised societies. That position was reflected and constituted in the notion that their "sovereignty" was either completely lacking, or at least of an inferior character when compared to that of "civilised" people."Lassa Oppenheim said "There exists perhaps no conception the meaning of which is more controversial than that of sovereignty. It is an indisputable fact that this conception, from the moment when it was introduced into political science until the present day, has never had a meaning which was universally agreed upon." In the opinion of H. V. Evatt of the High Court of Australia, "sovereignty is neither a question of fact, nor a question of law, but a question that does not arise at all."