When the local newspaper asked me to comment about what future historians will likely regard as the most significant events of 2010, I thought it was an unusual approach to the usual year-end retrospectives. So I sent them a list of things I considered noteworthy along with my explanations. The heart of what I said can be read here, but there was quite a bit that didn't make it into the article. Just for fun, here is my full list of notable events for 2010:
Most memorable national and international events of 2010:
-William L. Ramsey, Lander University
For a historian, the key issue in judging the significance of an event is the magnitude of change that occurs as a result of it. In this case, of course, I’m predicting the change that will likely occur in the future, and I may well be proven wrong by the course of events. With that in mind, here’s my list of the most important events of 2010.
1. The IMF and Eurozone bailouts for Greece and Ireland. These stories don’t get a lot of coverage in U.S. media, but it’s rare to see entire countries on the verge of complete and utter insolvency and ruin. The European Union had to deal with two such cases in a single year. They reveal the depth of the continuing world economic crisis, something that historians will undoubtedly regard as one of the most important challenges of our time.
2. The explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20 began a three month long environmental nightmare for the United States. During that time, the oil industry, the fishing industry, seafood processing industry, Gulf Coast tourist industry, and numerous support businesses were devastated. The disaster also opened a national dialogue about deepwater oil drilling and environmental issues that drew the President of the United States, the Congress, the Federal courts, and international corporate leaders into a very public battle. The oil spill was not contained until August 4.
3. The emergence of the Tea Party movement in the United States. Love them or hate them, Tea Party candidates rewrote the political playbook this election year. That is something you don’t see very often in a political culture like ours, where career politicians and big money campaign contributors usually call the shots. They didn’t win everything they were shooting for, but the Tea Partiers forced the establishment to engage in a grassroots dialogue that altered the debate in many ways.
4. Julian Assange and the Wikileaks publication of U.S. diplomatic communications. The first of these occurred on July 25, when Wikileaks “dumped” tens of thousands of secret U.S. documents onto the world wide web. Most of these had to do with operations in Afghanistan. Assange hurled the real bombshell, however, on November 28, when over 200,000 sensitive diplomatic “cables” were published. This batch of documents involved numerous world leaders in confidential dialogues with U.S. diplomats, including President Obama, and caused serious damage to U.S. international relations.
5. Growing tensions between North Korea and South Korea began early in the year with the sinking of a South Korean ship on March 23 and culminated with the exchange of artillery fire on November 23. This dispute is especially significant because it spotlights the problem of nuclear proliferation among “rogue” states such as North Korea and Iran. After the November 23 incident, North Korea threatened to use nuclear arms against South Korea.
6. 2010 will likely be remembered as a year of earthquakes and tsunamis. We began the year with the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12. Measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale, it killed over 230,000 Haitians and prompted an enormous international relief effort. That quake was followed by another deadly earthquake in Chile in February that killed 400, an earthquake in China that killed over 2,000 in April, and an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Indonesia on October 25 that killed over 400. It was a very deadly year.
Will any of these events make 2010 a memorable year that nobody can forget?
I would rank the Gulf oil spill and the Tea Party Movement as the events most likely to be identified with 2010 from an American perspective.
Was 2010 overall a good year or a bad year? Or is there no way to label it?
This was not the world’s, or the United States’ best year by any means, but there have certainly been worse. I’d say that if you are still standing at the end of it with faith, hope, and love in your heart, it was a good year.
Based on what happened this year, what events do you think will be interesting to watch for in 2011?
It will be interesting to see if the European financial situation stabilizes. If this year’s bailouts of Greece and Ireland can turn things around there, it will have a positive impact on our economy as well. Sad to say, the prospect of North Korea and Iran obtaining nuclear arms could be one of the major headlines next year. Here at home, it will be interesting to see how the Tea Party moves forward in preparation for the 2012 elections.
How do you think the decade will be remembered?
For historians, especially American historians, the first decade of the new millennium, 2000-2010, will likely be remembered as a troubled one. It began with the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, September 11, 2001, and ended with the worst financial crisis in a half-century. It will also probably be remembered as the decade that the internet came of age.