The Stuart era experienced many changes -the Gunpowder Plot, civil and foreign wars, regicide, a Republic, the Great Plague, the Great Fire of London and the glorious revolution. This was the era of Shakespeare, Wren, Galileo, Newton and Pepys, to name but a few. The era saw the settlement of the Americas, trade with the Spice Islands, the birth of steam engines, microscopes, coffee houses and newspapers. The British Empire had been expanding since the Elizabethian era, and along with much wealth returning to the country, expensive luxury items were appearing. Sugar and coffee from the East Indies, tea from India and slaves from Africa were all essential items forming the backbone of trade, becoming the basis of London society.