The 20th century saw the growth of Sudanese nationalism and in 1953 Britain granted Sudan self-government. Independence was proclaimed on 1 January 1956. Since independence, Sudan has been ruled by a series of unstable parliamentary governments and military regimes. Under Gaafar Nimeiry, Sudan instituted Islamic law in 1983. This exacerbated the rift between the Islamic north, the seat of the government and the Animists and Christians in the south. Differences in language, religion, and political power erupted in a civil war between government forces, strongly influenced by the National Islamic Front (NIF), and the southern rebels, whose most influential faction was the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), eventually concluding in the independence of South Sudan in 2011.
The country's name Sudan is a name given to a geographical region to the south of the Sahara, stretching from Western Africa to eastern Central Africa. The name derives from the Arabic bilād as-sūdān (بلاد السودان), or "the lands of the Blacks". The name is one of several toponyms sharing similar etymologies, ultimately meaning "land of the blacks" or similar meanings, in reference to the dark skin of the inhabitants. Initially, the term "Sudanese" had a negative connotation in Sudan due to its association with black African slaves. The idea of "Sudanese" nationalism goes back to the 1930s and 1940s, when it was popularised by young intellectuals.