The Society Portal

Ant (formicidae) social ethology
Ant (formicidae) social ethology

A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societies are characterized by patterns of relationships (social relations) between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent of members. In the social sciences, a larger society often exhibits stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.

Societies construct patterns of behavior by deeming certain actions or concepts as acceptable or unacceptable. These patterns of behavior within a given society are known as societal norms. Societies, and their norms, undergo gradual and perpetual changes.

Insofar as it is collaborative, a society can enable its members to benefit in ways that would otherwise be difficult on an individual basis; both individual and social (common) benefits can thus be distinguished, or in many cases found to overlap. A society can also consist of like-minded people governed by their own norms and values within a dominant, larger society. This is sometimes referred to as a subculture, a term used extensively within criminology, and also applied to distinctive subsections of a larger society.

More broadly, and especially within structuralist thought, a society may be illustrated as an economic, social, industrial or cultural infrastructure, made up of, yet distinct from, a varied collection of individuals. In this regard society can mean the objective relationships people have with the material world and with other people, rather than "other people" beyond the individual and their familiar social environment. (Full article...)

Selected article

Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity. For many sociologists the goal is to conduct research which may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, while others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure. The traditional focuses of sociology have included social stratification, social class, culture, social mobility, religion, secularization, law, and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are affected by the interplay between social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to further subjects, such as health, medical, military and penal institutions, the Internet, and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge. The range of social scientific methods has also expanded. Social researchers draw upon a variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-twentieth century led to increasingly interpretative, hermeneutic, and philosophic approaches to the analysis of society. Conversely, recent decades have seen the rise of new analytically, mathematically and computationally rigorous techniques, such as agent-based modelling and social network analysis. Sociology should not be confused with various general social studies courses which bear little relation to sociological theory or social science research methodology.

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Battle of MalakoffCredit: William Simpson; Restoration: Adam Cuerden

The Battle of Malakoff, during the Crimean War, was fought between the Russian and the allied French-British armies on 7 September 1855. In one of the war's defining moments, a French zouave installed the French flag on the top of the Russian redoubt, as depicted here. The battle brought about the capture of Sevastopol after an 11-month siege.

Did you know...

Rainforest ecosystems are rich in biodiversity. This is the Gambia River in Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park.

  • ... that, at the age of 89, producer and director Abel Gance viewed a restoration of his French epic silent film Napoléon in Telluride, Colorado?
  • ... that British ecologist Arthur Tansley, founder of the British Ecological Society and the journal New Phytologist, introduced the concept of the ecosystem (pictured) in 1935?
  • ... that Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen, author of The Land and Freshwater Mollusca of India, was an early president of the Malacological Society?

Anniversaries this month

Fiscal Philatelic Society advert

  • 10 January 1966 – Foundation of the Kuwait Red Crescent Society, as a branch of the international Red Crescent Society
  • 10 January 1990 – Nusantara Society was founded comprising research fellows, professors, lecturers, students and postgraduates of Moscow and St. Petersburg academic institutions, universities and higher schools, studying the vast region of Nusantara, populated by peoples speaking Austronesian languages
  • 11 January 1902 – Formation of the Fiscal Philatelic Society (1908 advertisement pictured), an early twentieth century philatelic society that is seen as a predecessor to today's Cinderella Stamp Club and The Revenue Society
  • 13 January 1873 – Death of Henry Venn, an Anglican clergyman who served as honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1873

Selected quote

Selected biography

Robert Sterling Yard in 1920
Robert Sterling Yard in 1920
Robert Sterling Yard (1861–1945) was an American writer, journalist and wilderness activist. Yard graduated from Princeton University and spent the first twenty years of his career as a journalist, editor and publisher. In 1915 he was recruited by his friend Stephen Mather to help publicize the need for an independent national park agency. Their numerous publications were part of a movement that resulted in legislative support for a National Park Service in 1916. Yard served as head of the National Parks Educational Committee for several years after its conception, but tension within the NPS led him to concentrate on non-government initiatives. He became executive secretary of the National Parks Association in 1919. Yard worked to promote the national parks as well as educate Americans about their use. Creating high standards based on aesthetic ideals for park selection, he also opposed commercialism and industrialization of what he called "America's masterpieces". These standards caused discord with his peers. After helping to establish a relationship between the NPA and the United States Forest Service, Yard later became involved in the protection of wilderness areas. In 1935 he became one of the eight founding members of The Wilderness Society and acted as its first president from 1937 until his death eight years later. Yard is now considered an important figure in the modern wilderness movement. (Full article...)

Featured audio

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt's January 6, 1941 State of the Union Address, using the theme of the Four Freedoms, which he felt represented universal rights in a well-formed society, to explain why he brought America to join World War II. (transcript)
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    FDR's 1941 State of the Union (Four Freedoms speech) Edit 1.ogg
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Four Freedoms State of the Union Address, 1941. A transcript is available on Wikisource at The Four Freedoms speech and also at Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Eighth State of the Union Address.


    Noise reduction applied and blended into the original. Cut a few seconds at the start. Fade in at start. Some editing to remove clicks, though not extensive.


    This transcript was copied and pasted from the Wikisource page: The Four Freedoms speech on 2018-08-22:

    State of the Union Address 1941: Four Freedoms Speech

    Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Seventy-seventh Congress:

    I address you, the Members of this new Congress, at a moment unprecedented in the history of the Union. I use the word "unprecedented," because at no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today.

    Since the permanent formation of our Government under the Constitution, in 1789, most of the periods of crisis in our history have related to our domestic affairs. Fortunately, only one of these—the four-year War Between the States—ever threatened our national unity. Today, thank God, one hundred and thirty million Americans, in forty-eight States, have forgotten points of the compass in our national unity.

    It is true that prior to 1914 the United States often had been disturbed by events in other Continents. We had even engaged in two wars with European nations and in a number of undeclared wars in the West Indies, in the Mediterranean and in the Pacific for the maintenance of American rights and for the principles of peaceful commerce. But in no case had a serious threat been raised against our national safety or our continued independence.

    What I seek to convey is the historic truth that the United States as a nation has at all times maintained clear, definite opposition, to any attempt to lock us in behind an ancient Chinese wall while the procession of civilization went past. Today, thinking of our children and of their children, we oppose enforced isolation for ourselves or for any other part of the Americas.

    That determination of ours, extending over all these years, was proved, for example, during the quarter century of wars following the French Revolution.

    While the Napoleonic struggles did threaten interests of the United States because of the French foothold in the West Indies and in Louisiana, and while we engaged in the War of 1812 to vindicate our right to peaceful trade, it is nevertheless clear that neither France nor Great Britain, nor any other nation, was aiming at domination of the whole world.

    In like fashion from 1815 to 1914 — ninety-nine years — no single war in Europe or in Asia constituted a real threat against our future or against the future of any other American nation.

    Except in the Maximilian interlude in Mexico, no foreign power sought to establish itself in this Hemisphere; and the strength of the British fleet in the Atlantic has been a friendly strength. It is still a friendly strength.

    Even when the World War broke out in 1914, it seemed to contain only small threat of danger to our own American future. But, as time went on, the American people began to visualize what the downfall of democratic nations might mean to our own democracy.

    We need not overemphasize imperfections in the Peace of Versailles. We need not harp on failure of the democracies to deal with problems of world reconstruction. We should remember that the Peace of 1919 was far less unjust than the kind of "pacification" which began even before Munich, and which is being carried on under the new order of tyranny that seeks to spread over every continent today. The American people have unalterably set their faces against that tyranny.

    Every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world—assailed either by arms, or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace.

    During sixteen long months this assault has blotted out the whole pattern of democratic life in an appalling number of independent nations, great and small. The assailants are still on the march, threatening other nations, great and small. Therefore, as your President, performing my constitutional duty to "give to the Congress information of the state of the Union," I find it, unhappily, necessary to report that the future and the safety of our country and of our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders.

    Armed defense of democratic existence is now being gallantly waged in four continents. If that defense fails, all the population and all the resources of Europe and Asia and Africa and Australasia will be dominated by conquerors and let us remember that the total of those populations and their resources in those four continents greatly exceeds the sum total of the population and the resources of the whole of the Western Hemisphere — many times over.

    In times like these it is immature — and incidentally, untrue — for anybody to brag that an unprepared America, single-handed, and with one hand tied behind its back, can hold off the whole world.

    No realistic American can expect from a dictator's peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion — or even good business.

    Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors. "Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    As a nation, we may take pride in the fact that we are softhearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed.

    We must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal preach the "ism" of appeasement.

    We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests.

    I have recently pointed out how quickly the tempo of modern warfare could bring into our very midst the physical attack which we must eventually expect if the dictator nations win this war.

    There is much loose talk of our immunity from immediate and direct invasion from across the seas. Obviously, as long as the British Navy retains its power, no such danger exists. Even if there were no British Navy, it is not probable that any enemy would be stupid enough to attack us by landing troops in the United States from across thousands of miles of ocean, until it had acquired strategic bases from which to operate.

    But we learn much from the lessons of the past years in Europe — particularly the lesson of Norway, whose essential seaports were captured by treachery and surprise built up over a series of years.

    The first phase of the invasion of this Hemisphere would not be the landing of regular troops. The necessary strategic points would be occupied by secret agents and by their dupes — and great numbers of them are already here, and in Latin America.

    As long as the aggressor nations maintain the offensive, they — not we — will choose the time and the place and the method of their attack.

    That is why the future of all the American Republics is today in serious danger.

    That is why this Annual Message to the Congress is unique in our history.

    That is why every member of the Executive Branch of the Government and every member of the Congress face great responsibility; great accountability.

    The need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily — almost exclusively — to meeting this foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part of the great emergency.

    Just as our national policy in internal affairs has been based upon a decent respect for the rights and the dignity of all of our fellow men within our gates, so our national policy in foreign affairs has been based on a decent respect for the rights and the dignity of all nations, large and small. And the justice of morality must and will win in the end.

    Our national policy is this:

    First, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to all-inclusive national defense.
    Secondly, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to full support of all those resolute peoples everywhere who are resisting aggression and are thereby keeping war away from our Hemisphere. By this support, we express our determination that the democratic cause shall prevail; and we strengthen the defense and the security of our own nation.
    Third, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to the proposition that principles of morality and considerations for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce in a peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers. We know that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people's freedom.

    In the recent national election there was no substantial difference between the two great parties in respect to that national policy. No issue was fought out on this line before the American electorate. And today it is abundantly evident that American citizens everywhere are demanding and supporting speedy and complete action in recognition of obvious danger.

    Therefore, the immediate need is a swift and driving increase in our armament production.

    Leaders of industry and labor have responded to our summons. Goals of speed have been set. In some cases these goals are being reached ahead of time; in some cases we are on schedule; in other cases there are slight but not serious delays; and in some cases — and I am sorry to say very important cases — we are all concerned by the slowness of the accomplishment of our plans.

    The Army and Navy, however, have made substantial progress during the past year. Actual experience is improving and speeding up our methods of production with every passing day. And today's best is not good enough for tomorrow.

    I am not satisfied with the progress thus far made. The men in charge of the program represent the best in training, in ability, and in patriotism. They are not satisfied with the progress thus far made. None of us will be satisfied until the job is done.

    No matter whether the original goal was set too high or too low, our objective is quicker and better results.

    To give you two illustrations:

    We are behind schedule in turning out finished airplanes; we are working day and night to solve the innumerable problems and to catch up.
    We are ahead of schedule in building warships but we are working to get even further ahead of that schedule.

    To change a whole nation from a basis of peacetime production of implements of peace to a basis of wartime production of implements of war is no small task. And the greatest difficulty comes at the beginning of the program, when new tools, new plant facilities, new assembly lines, and new ship ways must first be constructed before the actual materiel begins to flow steadily and speedily from them.

    The Congress, of course, must rightly keep itself informed at all times of the progress of the program. However, there is certain information, as the Congress itself will readily recognize, which, in the interests of our own security and those of the nations that we are supporting, must of needs be kept in confidence.

    New circumstances are constantly begetting new needs for our safety. I shall ask this Congress for greatly increased new appropriations and authorizations to carry on what we have begun.

    I also ask this Congress for authority and for funds sufficient to manufacture additional munitions and war supplies of many kinds, to be turned over to those nations which are now in actual war with aggressor nations.

    Our most useful and immediate role is to act as an arsenal for them as well as for ourselves. They do not need man power, but they do need billions of dollars worth of the weapons of defense.

    The time is near when they will not be able to pay for them all in ready cash. We cannot, and we will not, tell them that they must surrender, merely because of present inability to pay for the weapons which we know they must have.

    I do not recommend that we make them a loan of dollars with which to pay for these weapons — a loan to be repaid in dollars.

    I recommend that we make it possible for those nations to continue to obtain war materials in the United States, fitting their orders into our own program. Nearly all their materiel would, if the time ever came, be useful for our own defense.

    Taking counsel of expert military and naval authorities, considering what is best for our own security, we are free to decide how much should be kept here and how much should be sent abroad to our friends who by their determined and heroic resistance are giving us time in which to make ready our own defense.

    For what we send abroad, we shall be repaid within a reasonable time following the close of hostilities, in similar materials, or, at our option, in other goods of many kinds, which they can produce and which we need.

    Let us say to the democracies: "We Americans are vitally concerned in your defense of freedom. We are putting forth our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to give you the strength to regain and maintain a free world. We shall send you, in ever-increasing numbers, ships, planes, tanks, guns. This is our purpose and our pledge."

    In fulfillment of this purpose we will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators that they will regard as a breach of international law or as an act of war our aid to the democracies which dare to resist their aggression. Such aid is not an act of war, even if a dictator should unilaterally proclaim it so to be.

    When the dictators, if the dictators, are ready to make war upon us, they will not wait for an act of war on our part. They did not wait for Norway or Belgium or the Netherlands to commit an act of war.

    Their only interest is in a new one-way international law, which lacks mutuality in its observance, and, therefore, becomes an instrument of oppression.

    The happiness of future generations of Americans may well depend upon how effective and how immediate we can make our aid felt. No one can tell the exact character of the emergency situations that we may be called upon to meet. The Nation's hands must not be tied when the Nation's life is in danger.

    We must all prepare to make the sacrifices that the emergency — almost as serious as war itself — demands. Whatever stands in the way of speed and efficiency in defense preparations must give way to the national need.

    A free nation has the right to expect full cooperation from all groups. A free nation has the right to look to the leaders of business, of labor, and of agriculture to take the lead in stimulating effort, not among other groups but within their own groups.

    The best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example, and, if that fails, to use the sovereignty of Government to save Government.

    As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone. Those who man our defenses, and those behind them who build our defenses, must have the stamina and the courage which come from unshakable belief in the manner of life which they are defending. The mighty action that we are calling for cannot be based on a disregard of all things worth fighting for.

    The Nation takes great satisfaction and much strength from the things which have been done to make its people conscious of their individual stake in the preservation of democratic life in America. Those things have toughened the fibre of our people, have renewed their faith and strengthened their devotion to the institutions we make ready to protect.

    Certainly this is no time for any of us to stop thinking about the social and economic problems which are the root cause of the social revolution which is today a supreme factor in the world.

    For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

    Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
    Jobs for those who can work.
    Security for those who need it.
    The ending of special privilege for the few.
    The preservation of civil liberties for all.
    The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

    These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

    Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement.

    As examples:

    We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.
    We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
    We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.

    I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call.

    A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

    If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.

    In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

    The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

    The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

    The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world.

    The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.

    That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

    To that new order we oppose the greater conception — the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

    Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change — in a perpetual peaceful revolution — a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions — without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

    This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

    To that high concept there can be no end save victory.

    Frances Benjamin Johnston, Self-Portrait (as "New Woman"), 1896.jpg

    Frances Benjamin Johnston's Self-Portrait (as "New Woman"), a full-length self-portrait of her seated in front of fireplace, facing left, holding cigarette in one hand and a beer stein in the other, in her Washington, D.C. studio
    (c) MesserWoland, CC-BY-SA-3.0
    Abstract stick-figures gesticulating around a table.
    Cicatrices de flagellation sur un esclave.jpg
    Scars of a whipped Mississippi slave, photo taken (April 2, 1863, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. Original caption: "Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer. The very words of poor Peter, taken as he sat for his picture."
    Daisy (1964).webm
    Daisy, an advertisement aired on television during the 1964 United States presidential election by incumbent president Lyndon B. Johnson's campaign.
    William Simpson - Attack on the Malakoff.jpg

    The Attack on the Malakoff by w:William Simpson. Print shows the French assault on the Malakoff, the main Russian fortification before Sevastopolʹ, on 7 September 1855. French soldiers advance from the left, Zouaves from the left foreground, crossing the ditch and engaging Russian soldiers in hand-to-hand combat on the right. This was published on 22 October 1855, less than two months after the battle, which is about as contemporary to the event as mass-reproduced colour images got at the time.

    Français L'attaque de Malakoff par w:William Simpson. La gravure montre l'assaut sur Malakoff, la plus importante fortification russe devant Sébastopol, le 7 septembre 1855, au cours de la guerre de Crimée. Soldats français et Zouaves s'avancent, traversent le fossé, et engagent les soldats russes dans un combat au corps à corps. Ce document fut publié le 22 octobre 1855, moins de deux mois après l'événement, ce qui peut être considéré à l'époque comme contemporain pour ce type de reproduction de masse en couleurs.
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    Author/Creator: TristanBomb, Licence: CC0
    A dark green flag.
    Author/Creator: Guinnog, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
    Sign in Durban that states the beach is for whites only under section 37 of the Durban beach by-laws. The languages are English, Afrikaans and Zulu, the language of the black population group in the Durban area.
    Sample 09-F9 protest art, Free Speech Flag by John Marcotte.svg
    SVG version of a flag protesting the suppression of an HD-DVD encryption key, see AACS encryption key controversy.

    Text description of the flag by author John Marcotte:

    Free Speech Flag -- Our government has become increasingly willing to sacrifice the rights of its citizens at the altar of corporate greed. As ridiculous as it sounds, even numbers have become “intellectual property” that corporations can claim ownership of. We here at Badmouth think that idea stinks. We want to start a movement, a movement to reclaim personal liberties and decorporatize the laws of our nation.

    To that end we have made a flag, a symbol to show support for personal freedoms. Spread it as far and wide as you can. We give this flag away freely, and also give away the rights for people to make similar, derivative works. the colors of the flag are (in hex code format):

    #09F911 #029D74 #E35BD8 #4156C5 #635688

    The letters "C0" are added to signify that simply publishing a number is "Crime Zero".

    Spread the word.

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    Author/Creator: Chris Parfitt, Licence: CC BY 2.0
    Ants' social ethology: ants hunting a bigger prey
    SNA segment.png
    Author/Creator: Screenshot taken by User:DarwinPeacock, Licence: CC BY 3.0
    A segment of a social network
    Xiahe mandible.jpg
    Author/Creator: Dongju Zhang, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
    The lateral photograph of Xiahe mandible showing two attached molars. The mandible is the first confirmed discovery of a Denisovan fossil outside of Denisova Cave.
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    Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
    Bertillon, Alphonse, fiche anthropométrique recto-verso.jpg
    Author/Creator: Jebulon, Licence: CC0
    Anthropometric data sheet (both sides) of Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914), a pioneer of the Scientific Police, inventor of anthropometry, first head of the Forensic Identification Service of the Prefecture de Police in Paris (1893).
    Bill Moyers 24 May 2005.jpg
    US journalist and commentator Bill Moyers
    Former logo of the English Wiktionary. Set in Times New Roman, Lucida Sans, and Bitstream Vera Sans.
    Jane Addams - Bain News Service.jpg
    Sociologist, suffragette, social worker, philosopher, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams, in 1924 or 1926 (the way the date is written (mirror image, at top of the TIFF version) is probably 3-2-26, but could be 3-2-24.