Lucien Febvre was a founding member of the Annales School, the name of which was taken from the journal that he and Marc Bloch jointly established in 1929. The School's other members included Henri Berr, Fernand Braudel, who joined the group in 1937, Jacques Le Goff and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, both of whom are more recent members. Lucien Febvre and the Annales School emphasize the complex interplay between heterogeneous dimensions of social life in equally complex interplay with its natural environment.

Febvre's 'Civilisation: Evolution of a Word and a Group of Ideas' is a detailed analysis of the emergence of the notion of civilization within the specifically French context, and of the way in which it also gained currency as a general category to describe societal types. Febvre's essay points to the unresolved tension between the two uses of the term as a category of either identity or taxonomy. The Annales School generally develops the category of civilization as one pertaining to identity, and yet in so doing, also makes civilization a category through which the intersection of spatial and temporal, material and cultural settings and patterns can be thematized and explored.