Nathalie Sigot, 2019-20 HOPE Center Fellow

Charlotte Motor Speedway can hold up to 170,000 spectators, and among the racing fans who saw Chase Elliot in the #9 car win the 2019 Bank of America Roval 400 on the final Sunday in September were two historians of economics.

Yes, two historians of economics.

Maybe one shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the late Craufurd Goodwin could recount the entire history of the old Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsborough, now preserved as a bucolic walking trail.

“NASCAR is American, and we want to see as much American culture as we can,” says Nathalie Sigot, a 2019-20 HOPE Center fellow who attended the race in Charlotte with her husband Ghislain Deleplace, an expert on David Ricardo on money.

NASCAR stands for the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing. Think of it as the American counterpoint to Formula 1, but for sport cars upgraded from production ones.

Nathalie noted the yellow caution flags that require all drivers to slow down, allowing cars in the back to get close to the leader.

“Like the American spirit, it gives everyone a chance to catch up.”

Nathalie, who is a professor at the University of Paris (Sorbonne) and former director of the only French Lab devoted entirely to the history of economic thought, is here studying the way in which nineteenth-century French economists talked about the “woman question,” a protracted debate about the place and role of women in society. The 1800s saw more and more women enter the workforce; yet French economists at the time tended to think of women only in terms of household and family roles.

As it turns out, Duke is a great place to pursue her research.

“Strange as it may sound, I can get French-language books and periodicals here at Duke far more readily than I can in many French libraries,” she says.

Her present work stems from her longtime interest in utilitarianism, the nineteenth-century philosophy that considered happiness to be the highest good. For the same reason, she will also work on Scitovsky’s papers during her stay in Duke, where his archives are held.

This is Nathalie’s first time in Durham and at Duke. She and her family visited California three years ago, taking three weeks to drive from the northern part of the state to San Diego.

During her fellowship, Nathalie is living in Chapel Hill with Ghislain and their twin sons. They will return to France in February.