The 10 Biggest International Stories of 2011

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Atlantic writers survey the biggest stories on their beats See full coverage

Time Magazine may be taking flack for its person of the year selection, "The Protester," but there's some truth to the choice. In most years, the biggest news stories are things that happened to large groups of people: natural disasters, terrorist attacks, financial collapses. Our list of last year's biggest international stories was composed entirely of events driven by either the forces of nature or, at most, a small handful of people: heads of state, central bankers, or people like Julian Assange or Mullah Omar.

This year, people -- regular people, masses of them -- were not just the victims of events, they were the ones making things happen. The old way of things is still there: natural disasters rocked Japan and Thailand, European bankers struggled to control slipping continental finances, and political leaders made decisions that changed the world. But popular movements had such an impact that 2011's biggest story by far, the Arab Spring, could easily fill all ten slots on this list, but is instead compressed to only one slide so as to make room for other stories.

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Max Fisher is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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