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5 December 2019

The A-Z of the 2010s

New Statesman writers reflect on the decade’s definitive political and cultural trends. 

By New Statesman

The events of the 2010s unfolded with dizzying speed. The UK experienced three Conservative governments since 2010, a coalition agreement, three prime ministers and two referendums. Political turbulence disrupted democracies across the world: populist leaders toppled incumbents and wars were fought in Syria and Iraq. New political movements spilled onto the streets as people demanded climate action and confronted racism, misogyny and gender discrimination. 

But it’s not just politics that defined the last decade. Our culture, too, has changed beyond recognition. Instagram, which was launched in 2010, shaped our identities and aspirations. Streaming platforms like Netflix and Spotify transformed how we consume film and music. New genres came to the fore. Grime became mainstream and pop merged with R&B. In anxious times, we turned to personal essays and memoir.

With a month to go until 2020, the New Statesman’s A-Z reflects on the political and cultural trends that reshaped the world during the decade when time sped up.


A is for Avocado

Ever since millennials were accused of spending too much on brunch, the green fruit has become the flashpoint for a generational divide.

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B is for Black Lives Matter

The hashtag first appeared in 2012, after the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager. The movement continued to gain traction throughout the decade, organising hundreds of protests against multiple deaths of black people at the hands of US police.

Stephen Bush 

C is for Coalition

Commentators began using the term “unprecedented”, which would come to define a decade of fractured British politics.

Anoosh Chakelian

D is for Drones

During the last decade, Western militaries shifted towards mechanised warfare to fight enemies such as Isis.

Shiraz Maher

E is for Ed Sheeran

Since releasing “A-Team” in 2011, Ed Sheeran has dominated the UK charts for almost the entire decade. Here’s why the transparency of his Everyman brand came to define a decade.

Eleanor Peake

F is for Fake News

The ease with which false information now spreads online has fractured our politics. This is how we ended up in a post-truth world.

Jasper Jackson

G is for Grime

The grassroots British genre became mainstream, cementing itself in history as one of music’s great disruptors.

Emily Bootle

H is for Hipster

The decade the dickhead died.

Anna Leszkiewicz

I is for Instagram

In 2010, an app was launched that would change our culture forever.

Sarah Manavis

J is for Juul

The 2010s saw the continued decline of smoking, partly helped by substitutes that have thrown up their own concerns. 

Jasper Jackson

K is for Kate Middleton

A tale of two duchesses: one adored by the media, and one forced to launch legal action. 

Indra Warnes

L is for Love Island

Love Island is no longer just a moneymaker that’s great for advertisers and an easy way to flog personalised water bottles, it is its own incredibly lucrative industry.

Sarah Manavis

M is for #MeToo

The 2017 hashtag represents women’s continued struggle against sexual violence.

Ellen Peirson-Hagger

N is for Netflix

The streaming service that changed both the content of the TV we watch, and how we watch it.

Ellen Peirson-Hagger

O is for Olympics

The 2012 games became a centrist panacea for our fractured political landscape, and paved the way for the corporate takeover of cities.

Hettie O’Brien

P is for Populism

How a slippery and evasive term came to define a decade of disruption.

George Eaton

Q is for Quantitative Easing

The emergency economic policy that endured throughout the decade that growth forgot. 

George Eaton

R is for Refugee Crisis

 The displacement of people by war and persecution reached a historic high.

Anoosh Chakelian

S is for Serial

 The longform true crime podcast achieved unparalleled success.

Emily Bootle

T is for Trans Movement

An ongoing struggle for the rights of a vulnerable, tiny minority will continue into the next decade. 

Ailbhe Rea

U is for Uber

The app that changed the way we travel, work, eat – and judge each other.

Anoosh Chakelian

V is for Viral Content

How “going viral” went from accident to business strategy

Sarah Manavis

W is for Wellness

How the language of self-care, empowerment and inclusivity was sold back to people with disposable income

Anna Leszkiewicz

X is for Extinction Rebellion

The group that finally put climate change at the front of public consciousness

Hettie O’Brien

Y is for YOLO

The continued evolution of online language

Emily Bootle

Z is for Generation Z

The kids putting the world to shame

Indra Warnes