History often emerges only in retrospect. Events become significant only when looking back
A year after a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself ablaze, dissent has spread across the Middle East, reaching Europe and the U.S., reshaping global politics and redefining people power
William McRaven: The Admiral (Runners-Up)
He led the special-ops teams that took down Osama bin Laden. For both the man and his troops, it was a long time coming
Ai Weiwei: The Dissident (Runners-Up)
In a year of crackdowns in China, the fate of its best-known artist held the world in suspense. How far will Ai's activism go?
Paul Ryan: The Prophet (Runners-Up)
The Republican congressman wrote a plan to rein in America's debt. It will shape our politics for years to come
Kate Middleton: The Princess (Runners-Up)
Her Wedding to Prince William captured the gaze and goodwill of millions. Now the demure, diplomatic duchess of cambridge is poised to reinvest celebrity with restraint
People Who Mattered (Person of the Year)
TIME surveys the key figures, from politics and sports to entertainment and religion, who shaped our world over the past year
Fond Farewells (Person of the Year)
Remembering those who left us in 2011: Carrie Fisher on Elizabeth Taylor, John Lasseter on Steve Jobs, Rosalynn Carter on Betty Ford
A Year In The Making (To Our Readers)
What follows an Arab Spring, Indignant Summer, Occupied Fall and Russian Winter?