John Darwin, After Tamerlane:
For all its drama, the Occidental ‘breakout’ of the long sixteenth century (1480–1620) had for long a limited impact.
I've read about these "long centuries" from time to time — it's a convenient way to refer to time-periods that sprawl somewhat beyond the boundaries of years ending in double zeros — but when I came upon this phrase the other day, on a long airplane ride from the Netherlands back to the U.S., some questions occurred to me. Why "long" as opposed to "wide", "broad", "extended", or whatever? Who started this usage, and when? What are the corresponding terms, if any, in other languages?
The exact degree of epi-centennial sprawl is apparently somewhat elastic, e.g.
The modern world system originated in the sixteenth century, the "long" sixteenth century as Fernand Braudel has called it, that is, from 1450 to 1640. [Immanuel Wallerstein, Immanuel, "Three paths of national development in sixteenth-century Europe." Studies in Comparative International Development 1972]
This volume examines the dramatic changes in politics, society and culture which occurred between 1492 and 1650. [Piet Emmer et al., New Societies: The Caribbean in the Long Sixteenth Century.]
And there are other "long centuries" as well:
This book provides a "birds eye" view of social change in France during the "long seventeenth century" from 1589-1715.
E. Anthony Wrigley, "British population during the ‘long’ eighteenth century, 1680-1840"
D. Blackbourn, The long nineteenth century: A history of Germany, 1780-1918
Here are Google Scholar's counts for "the long ___ century":
Several sources credit Fernand Braudel with coining the term, attributing it in particular to le long seizième siècle in his 1949 book La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l'époque de Philippe II. Thus Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas, Fernand Braudel et les sciences humaines, 2004:
C'est ce qu'a fait Braudel dans toutes ses oeuvres. Par example, comme nous le verrons plus avant, dans son livre sur La Méditerranée, la période du règne de Philippe II nous renvoie necessairement à un cadre plus vaste, celui de ce "long seizième siècle" qui dure en Europe de 1450 à 1650.
[Update: Sorry, I previously referred to this as "his 1966 book", due to rushed on-line scholarship as I packed up in Ann Arbor to drive back to Philadelphia...]
There are some earlier "long" centuries, but they are probably normal uses of the adjective — thus J. Frank Dobie, "The first cattle in Texas and the Southwest progenitors of the longhorns", The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 1939):
Through the long eighteenth century in Texas, cattle were worth very little-sometimes not four pesos a head, and no buyers at any price.
Or Vernon Lee, Euphorion: Being Studies of the Antique and the Mediaeval in the Renaissance, 1884.
But the garments left to Italy by those latest Middle Ages which we call Renaissance, were not eternal : wear and tear, new occupations, and the rough usage of other nations, rent them most sorely ; their utter neglect by the long seventeenth century, their hasty patchings up (with bits of odd stuff and all manner of coloured thread and string, so that a harlequin's jacket could not look queerer) by the happy-go-lucky practicalness of the eighteenth century and the Revolution, reduced them thoroughly to rags ; and with these rags of Renaissance civilization, Italy may still be seen to drape herself.
So I think I know who started it — and if it was Braudel who coined the term in 1949, then it certainly has prospered quickly! [Though not as quickly as if his book had first been published in 1966, as I previously thought (and wrote)...]
And since the original was French, I know what it is in one other language. But I don't know how the term has been translated into German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, etc., or whether it has spread as widely through academic writing in those languages as it has in English.