Deriving from the Italian and Burgundian courts of the Renaissance, the notion that the state had a key role to play in the sponsoring of artistic production and that the arts were linked to national prestige was found in France from at least the 16th century on. During the pre-revolutionary period, these ideas are apparent in such things as the creation of the Académie française, the Académie de peinture et de sculpture and other state-sponsored institutions of artistic production, and through the cultural policies of Louis XIV's minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert.
The modern post of Minister of Culture was created by Charles de Gaulle in 1959 and the first Minister was the writer André Malraux. Malraux was responsible for realizing the goals of the "droit à la culture" ("the right to culture") -- an idea which had been incorporated in the French constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) -- by democratizing access to culture, while also achieving the Gaullist aim of elevating the "grandeur" ("greatness") of post-war France. To this end, he created numerous regional cultural centres throughout France and actively sponsored the arts. Malraux's artistic tastes included the modern arts and the avant-garde, but on the whole he remained conservative.
Under president François Mitterrand the Minister of Culture was Jack Lang who showed himself to be far more open to popular cultural production, including jazz, rock and roll, rap music, graffiti art ("tagging"), cartoons, comic books, fashion and food. His famous phrase "économie et culture, même combat" ("economy and culture: it's the same fight") is representative of his commitment to cultural democracy and to active national sponsorship and participation in cultural production. In addition to the creation of the Fête de la Musique and overseeing the French bicentennial (1989), he was in charge of the massive architectural program of the Mitterrand years (the so-called "Grands Travaux" or "Great Works" like the Bibliothèque nationale, the new Louvre, the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Musée d'Orsay, the Opéra-Bastille, the "Grande Arche" of La Défense (the Parisian business quarter) and the City of Science and Music in La Villette).
The Ministry of Jacques Toubon was notable for a number of laws (the "Toubon Laws") enacted for the preservation of the French language, both in advertisements (all ads must include a French translation of foreign words) and on the radio (40% of songs on French radio stations must be in French), ostensibly in reaction to the presence of English.
The current minister is Christine Albanel.
The ministry has gone through a number of different names:
The Ministry also has access to the division :
The Ministry also runs three "delegations" (administrative boards) :
For more on the organization of the Ministry, see Ministry of Culture