APSU father-daughter duo presents at prestigious history conference
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (08/25/2023) — Dr. Antonio Thompson and Madeline Thompson recently represented Austin Peay State University (APSU) at The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) conference in Arlington, Virginia.
The SHAFR conference is one of the most prestigious conferences in foreign relations. Historians worldwide attend the conference to gain knowledge and learn new perspectives from colleagues in the field. Dr. Thompson and Madeline have both presented at conferences before, but this was the first time they have presented at the same one.
"The SHAFR conference is the top tier for the American Foreign Relations discipline," Dr. Thompson said. "There are other large conferences out there, but this is very specific to that discipline. We've got people coming from across the world to present. The panel I was on even had international speakers, and they're all talking about some aspect of American foreign policy."
The Thompsons are no strangers to history or APSU. Dr. Thompson is a history professor at APSU who teaches various lower- and upper-division history classes. He graduated with his bachelor's degree from APSU, earned a doctorate in American foreign policy from the University of Kentucky and has two master's degrees, one in European history and one in American government.
His love for history is shared with his daughter Madeline, who graduated with her Bachelor of Science in history at APSU and is now studying early American history in the University's master's program. Dr. Amy Thompson, Madeline's mother and Dr. Antonio Thompson's wife, is also a biology professor at APSU.
"What originally sparked my passion for history is my family, my love for travel and my father," Madeline said. "I look up to my father, who has turned his love of history into a successful career. In the process, I have been inspired to follow my own passions and ambitions."
Madeline's panel was held on June 16, and her presentation was titled "Making the Enemy Favorable: Allies, Enemies, Mercenaries, and Traitors in the American Revolution." She focused on prisoners of war (POWs) during the American Revolution - specifically, how Americans treated captured British and German Hessian soldiers.
"It was very daunting," she said. "I was nervous when I went in because you never know what to expect. But what I found was a very welcoming, open and encouraging environment. It really made me realize that I am in the right field. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life."
Dr. Thompson's presentation, "Working for the Enemy: Axis Prisoner of War Labor in the Mid-South During World War II," was held on June 17. It described how German and Italian POWs in World War II worked on farms in Tennessee and Kentucky, filling the roles of young people who worked in war industries or joined the military during the war.
"For me to support her while she was presenting, and her supporting me," he said. "It's hard to say how important that is, but I'm very impressed with her."
Madeline said she appreciated the opportunity to attend SHAFR alongside her father, and that she recognized the unique experience.
"I feel like it was an experience that a lot of people will never get," Madeline said. "Being able to present with your father at a history conference when you're going into the same profession as him was really awesome."
Dr. Thompson and Madeline were the only APSU representatives at the conference, and both said they were glad to represent the University on such a large scale.
"I was really proud to be able to represent Austin Peay," Madeline said. "To get up there and to show what Austin Peay is doing. Our professors are all great. They're very encouraging. And it additionally showcases the knowledge that they've imparted to me during my time at APSU."
Dr. Thompson said presenting at an event like SHAFR has the potential to leave a significant impact on universities like APSU, as well as the individual panelists.
"It's good exposure for a historian like myself and for a graduate student like my daughter," he said. "I also think it helps the Department of History and Philosophy get some exposure [which then] helps Austin Peay."
The Thompsons plan to delve deeper into the field of history, as Madeline pursues her education at APSU while her father continues his research and ushers in a new generation of historians.
"I have three children," Dr. Thompson said. "I'm proud of all three. Madeline is the oldest. She's got the same interests as me but diverged into her own unique path. Her mother and I are very proud of her."