The United States and China are both experiencing declines in their birthrates. In both countries, the trend has led to hand-wringing over slower economic growth and strained budgets.

Amy Froide, a historian who has studied single people in 17th- and 18th-century Europe, writes of similar anxieties long ago in France and England. The two superpowers were locked in a long, drawn-out war, but the average marriage age was inching upward and birthrates were declining.

With population growth deemed necessary for sustaining a robust economy and military, each country proposed some bizarre and punitive policies aimed at spurring more births.

This week we also liked articles about the Appalachian Trail, how white people used conservatorships to swindle Native Americans and hip-hop’s origins.

Nick Lehr

Arts + Culture Editor

In England, children were seen as a way to replenish the military and sustain the economy. Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Taxing bachelors and proposing marriage lotteries – how superpowers addressed declining birthrates in the past

Amy Froide, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Go back to 17th- and 18th-century England and France and you’ll see the same sort of handwringing over birthrates that we’re seeing today.

The Osage Nation were once among the wealthiest people in the world. FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The disturbing history of how conservatorships were used to exploit, swindle Native Americans

Andrea Seielstad, University of Dayton

The discovery of oil and gas made members of the Osage Nation among the richest people in the world. But it also made them targets for exploitation.

McAfee Knob in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the Appalachian Trail’s most scenic vistas. Ben Townsend/Flickr

A century after the Appalachian Trail was proposed, millions hike it every year seeking ‘the breath of a real life’

Charles C. Chester, Brandeis University

When forester Benton MacKaye proposed building an Appalachian Trail 100 years ago, he was really thinking about preserving a larger region as a haven from industrial life.