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What is the grammatical role of "in general"?

Yes, you can place the phrase differently but it does affect the meaning. I don't think that either of your examples are ideal. I would have placed the adverbial phrase first: In general, people were ...
Astralbee's user avatar
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Position of adverbs before main verbs or between auxiliaries?

As there’re no examples from the OP, we look at two cases with auxiliaries and modals. Ngram Ngram Having such adverbs placed between the modal verb and the auxiliary verb seems to be the most common. ...
Seowjooheng Singapore's user avatar

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