Many different modes of chatter in rolling and their possible causes have been identified after years of research, yet no clear and definite theory of their mechanics has been fully established and accepted. In this two-part paper, stability of tandem mills is investigated. In Part 1, state-space models of single- and multi-stand chatter are formulated in a rigorous and comprehensive mathematical form. Then, the stability of the rolling system is investigated in the sense of the single- and multi-stand negative damping effects. First, a single-stand chatter model in state-space representation is proposed by coupling a dynamic rolling process model with a structural model for the mill stand. Subsequently, a multi-stand chatter model is developed by incorporating the inter-stand tension variations and the time delay effect of the strip transportation based on the single-stand chatter model. Stability criteria are proposed and stability analyses are performed to create corresponding stability charts in terms of the single- and multi-stand negative damping mechanism through numerical simulations. Particularly, the effect of friction conditions on chatter is examined and an explanation is given for the existence of an optimum friction condition. In Part 2, the regenerative effect and resulting instabilities are examined. Suitable stability criteria for each mechanism are established and stability charts are demonstrated in terms of relevant rolling process parameters.