Engineers have known since the last century that a substantial film of lubricant must be present at the contact between gear teeth. However, it is only in the last twenty-five years that analytical techniques have developed to the extent where theoretical predictions of film thickness are in accord with experience. This has come about through the incorporation in analysis of the effects of elastic distortion of the solids and the enhancement of lubricant viscosity due to pressure. Formulae for the prediction of both minimum and central film thickness in concentrated contacts such as those occurring in gear sets, rolling element bearings and cam and follower arrangements are now available to designers. Elastohydrodynamic analyses have almost entirely been restricted to the case of pure rolling in which the direction of lubricant entrainment has coincided with the minor axis of the Hertzian contact ellipse. While such analyses are indeed satisfactory for a wide range of practical configurations, there are situations for which the effects of flow direction have not been adequately explored. For example, in the roller-rib contacts in cylindrical and taper roller bearings and in the conjunctions occurring in high conformity gearing, a more reasonable approximation to the geometric configuration would be to consider the lubricant entraining vector to be parallel to the major axis of the contact ellipse. More generally in helical, spiral bevel and hypoid gearing the lubricant entrainment may be at an angle to the minor axis of the Hertzian ellipse. Part I of the present paper presents a study of the case where lubricant entrainment coincides with the line of the major axis of the contact ellipse, while part II addresses the more general case of an arbitrary flow direction. Seventy-two new solutions to the problem of the elastohydrodynamic lubrication of concentrated contacts with rolling along a principal axis have been computed. In part I of the paper thirty-three of these solutions are presented for lubricant entrainment in the direction of the major axis of the contact ellipse. These latter solutions therefore extend the range of geometrical configurations considered previously by B. J. Hamrock and D. Dowson, whose design predictions are widely used at present. New expressions for the calculation of minimum and central film thickness are presented, which enable the prediction with confidence of these quantities for the case when the lubricant entraining vector coincides with the major axis of the Hertzian contact ellipse. Comparison of the very extensive data presented in the paper with the limited information available from previous relevant studies is undertaken. In addition the major features distinguishing the new solutions for those previously computed are identified. It is expected that the results of the study will enable the lubricant film thickness to be predicted with increased confidence for a wide range of machine elements.