mperialism was the watchword in the 1870s. As the fledgling Irish home rule movement gathered pace, Britain was busy overseas.

In 1878 it acquired both Cyprus and Afghanistan to counter Russia’s incursion into Europe. Africa, too, was of interest - the Third Anglo-Ashanti War in modern Ghana began in 1873, and efforts to bring about federation in South Africa sparked the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

Trade with the Empire also dominated this period. A share purchase in 1875 gave Britain a 44% stake in the Suez Canal. The growth in foreign trade created a need for the Merchandise Marks Act of 1879, which required importers to indicate the location in which their goods were manufactured. Who says provenance is new?

Food and drink products remained largely commoditised - and, as in the 1860s, the origins of many enduring brands were created by grocers. Ellen and Thomas Warburton bought a grocery shop in Bolton in 1876 - and Frank Cooper’s marmalade was first produced in 1874, not by grocer Frank, but by his wife, Sarah.

The Sale of Food and Drugs Act of 1875 was designed to prevent grocers being too creative - at least, when it came to adulterating products. As Arthur Hill Hassall had found during the 1860s, the practice of adding chalk, plaster of Paris, sawdust or even strychnine was alarmingly widespread. Alcohol also became more regulated with the introduction of the 1872 Licensing Act, which restricted pub drinking hours.

As Britain’s empire reached ever further, a telegraph link between London and Australia was established in 1870 - part of the network of cables that later became known as the All Red Line. Seven years later, Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the telephone to Queen Victoria - a sign Britain was soon to become even closer to the outside world. Britain made other breakthroughs in science. In 1878, the first electric street lighting was introduced, on London’s Embankment and Waterloo Bridge.

And Britain extended its international presence in less aggressive ways - for instance, through sport. The first international football match was played in 1870, followed in 1871 by the first rugby international. Cricket took a while to catch up - the first test match was held in 1879.