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I suspect historians have a more concise way of referencing [[the people alive in the 17th century]] than people alive in the 17th century. Do they call them 17th centurians, for example?

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But once you've established the era, there's no need to refer to the population as 16th century men and women. They become "the population", "the plebes/the common people", "the aristocracy", "the clergy", "the loyalists" etc. – Mari-Lou A May 18 '14 at 0:46
Whereas the period is referred to as 'seicento', I know of no specific reference for 'the people of'; @Josh61's answer is the most common usage – Third News May 18 '14 at 4:14
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Historians refer to them as the contemporaries/a contemporary of the x century, or the x century contemporaries/an x century contemporary.

contemporary: a person living around the same time.


How many obscure, unintelligible points, which we judge too easily as incredible, were natural and clear as daylight for the contemporaries of those past ages!

Scholars have cited so many reasons - simple and complex - that we have sometimes forgotten what the contemporaries of those times observed.

Lawyers of the 17th century doubted it and the contemporaries of the 15th century were very careful indeed in defining its legal mature.

Which of the following aspects of the Dutch society most impressed 17th century contemporaries?

However, only a few of 19th century contemporaries were sounding the alarm about the particular female undergarment.

Riis was a contemporary of the rapid urbanization of the late nineteenth century, during which time cities became expanding centers of industry.

Alternately, one can also refer to contemporaries of a given century as people contemporaneous to..., or our ancestors/forebears of...

forebears, also spelled forbears: ancestors, forefathers.

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To refer to people who lived in past centuries you may use the following expression:

  • 15th-century people
  • 16th-century people, etc.
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How would you reference an unidentified individual who lived in a given century? E.g. A 15th-century person. The number of words the example comprises causes the phrase to seem repetitive quickly. – Hal May 17 '14 at 22:09
Yes, a 15th-century man/person/woman etc. – Josh61 May 17 '14 at 22:18

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