The French Annales School opened up new horizons for researchers through its efforts to renew the methodology, tools, sources and objects of historiography by drawing on other social sciences. Its founders Mark Bloch and Lucien Febvre and their successors Ferdinand Braudel and Ernest Labrousse aimed to break with the stagnant and tightly constrained vision of traditional positivist historians, drawing on economics, sociology, anthropology and demography and making heavy use of quantitative data and statistics. The price of their success within French academia, however, was a crisis of identity for history as an “independent” discipline. This paper traces the unique historical trajectory of the Annales School, which remained dominance within French history departments for almost a century, assessing the different stages in its development, the different generations of prominent personalities who played a major role in these different stages, and its remarkable contribution to the discipline of history. In Part 1, we look at the first generation of Annales historians – the founding fathers.