This collection encompasses the Foreign Office and diplomatic careers of four generations of the Wylde family during the nineteenth century.
The correspondence is revealing about the structures within the Foreign Office, the roles of British consuls abroad, their personalities and concerns, and above all in a broader sense with the history of British foreign policy, British colonialism and overseas interests, emphasising her role as arbiter as well as direct participant in matters on the world stage. Names amongst the correspondents include numerous British foreign secretaries, Lords Granville, Derby and Salisbury, and under-secretaries at the Foreign Office and India Office. African explorers including Frederick Elton, and Charles Livingstone, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, botanist and director at Kew, colonial governors and administrators, including Sir John Hawley Glover, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, British ambassadors, ministers and consul-generals including Sir Henry George Elliot, Sir John Kirk, Sir Austen Henry Layard, Sir Rutherford Alcock, Sir John Drummond Hay, Lord Lyons and Sir Evelyn Baring, as well as a host of lesser-known naval commanders and British consuls and vice-consuls. Many of these individuals, including Wylde himself, were also active figures in the Royal Geographical Society.
There is substantial material relating to topics such as the Spanish civil war, British annexation of the Fijian Islands, Spanish and American interests in Cuba, Portuguese and British colonial relations and African exploration, with the question of slavery underpinning much of these. Among the most notable are letters from the African explorer and some time British consul, Sir Richard Burton, and from General Charles Gordon in the Sudan between 1877 and 1881. There is also a substantial run of letters from Sir Daniel Brooke Robertson on Chinese affairs. As a copious and far from concise correspondent, Robertson's letters are packed with detail on events across China and offer much information on Anglo-Chinese relations during the 1850s and 1860s. The reactions to Wylde's decision to retire from the F.O. in 1880 (he was awarded a C.M.G. in the same year) suggest an individual warmly regarded and highly respected, particularly for his unceasing efforts over the years to abolish the slave trade. Even in retirement, Wylde continued to play a significant role on the diplomatic scene, being one of the two British representatives involved in negotiations between the British and French governments on the subject of Indian Coolie immigration to the French colony of Réunion, 1880-1. On this, copious correspondence and despatches exist in the collection. The final section of material relates to his deep involvement with the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society - he travelled to Brussels to the slave trade conference in 1890 on behalf of the society - and also his involvement with the South Middlesex Volunteer corps.