One of the defining events of 2011 was set in motion the previous year, when a fruit merchant in Tunisia set himself on fire in protest of the authorities, an act that unwittingly started what is now called "The Arab Spring."
Soon after, a massive earthquake turned into triple disaster for Japan, and just two months later, came the stunning discovery that al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden was living in a suburb in Pakistan as the world learned of a dramatic covert U.S. military operation that ended with his death.
Africa gave birth to a new country: South Sudan, while Ivory Coast finally ejected a long-time strongman. To the east, Somalia was engulfed by a devastating drought and famine.
In Europe, leaders struggled with an historic debt crisis as the world watched a young and glamorous royal couple exchange vows in Britain.