Sovereignty in premodern times evoked the dynastic figure of the 'sovereign' or territorial monarch. In modern times, it became a more abstract idea, referring to the power of the state, later of the people or 'the popular sovereign' as articulated and refined through constitutional arrangements. Today these inherited understandings of sovereignty confront various new challenges, including those of globalization, privatization of power, and the rise of sub-state nationalism. An examination of key historical writers and trends from the seventeenth century onwards, including Hobbes, Bodin, Constant, Rousseau and Schmitt, brings out these developments and challenges. Sovereignty remains a malleable and 'active' feature of the global configuration of power. Will sovereignty become a redundant concept over time, or will it remain a key part of the grammar of modern politics?