The Sudan or Soudan, was and still is to many, defined by an area south of the Sahara and north of the jungle forest. It is a dry grass land that stretches from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. By this definition, it is an area with no fixed boundrys.
French Soudan, British Soudan, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, The Sudan, The Soudan.
As for The Sudan this topic is directed at, if you look at pre 1860 maps, this land is called Nubia or Egypt. Sudan or Soudan seems to have come into use sometime after the 1860's. The most common spelling by english speaking peoples is "Sudan". But there are many books and articles from the 1881 to the 1898 period where "Soudan" is used in print and title, though this seems to be a habit of the 1880's. I grew up in Los Angeles, California and I always used "The Sudan" because that is the way I learned it from my readings as a early teen. My reading were of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan War. But I always saw the word "Sudan" in American text books and newspaper articles. I have an ebay search for "Sudan", and old 1950 and 60's American News paper photos that pop up for sale, simlpy use "Sudan". I do have National Geographic magazines from 1922 and 1929 and it is "The Sudan". Today, "The Sudan", appears to be relegated to history books, about the Khartoum-Sudan we are discussing. Both old history books and new.
I got into a discussion with a bayonet dealer about the Sudan wars, and I used "The Sudan" and he used "Sudan".
"You say 'too-mate-ohs', and I say 'too-mott-ohs'"...(Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers).
The country today is "Sudan" no if's, and's, or but's about it.
I can't speak for modern English press, but my guess is that the press has dropped "The" from "The Sudan". In fact, I just went to the Manchester Guardian U.K. web site and searched Sudan and there was no "The" in any of the items that came up.
The word "The" also is used to differentiate one item, person, thing, from another. "The Sudan", to the British, may have ment to differentiate the area of British interest not related to sub-Saharan Sudan from Red Sea To Atlantic, or defferentiate the area from French Soudan (Sudan), which starts with modern day Chad. It might have been a term of respect for the very harsh but facinating territory. Or maybe both.
Language is fascinating. it is evolving as we speak. I certainly don't use slang I used as a teen.
It is a language/semantics thing. I will continue to use "The Sudan" in the historical context of the phrase...buy I am not going to greet a guy from Khartoum and ask him if he lives in "The Sudan".
I just thought of something. Is it Atlantic Ocean or The Atlantic Ocean?