George Orwell "encapsulate[d] the thesis at the heart of his unforgiving novel" in 1944, the implications of dividing the world up into Zones of influence that had been conjured by the Tehran Conference and three years later he wrote most of it on the Scottish island of Jura, from 1947 to 1948, despite being seriously ill with tuberculosis. On 4 December 1948, he sent the final manuscript to the publisher Secker and Warburg and Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on 8 June 1949. By 1989, it had been translated into sixty-five languages, more than any other novel in English at the time. The title of the novel, its themes, the Newspeak language and the author's surname are often invoked against control and intrusion by the state, while the adjective Orwellian describes a totalitarian dystopia, characterised by government control and subjugation of the people. Orwell's invented language, Newspeak satirises hypocrisy and evasion by the state: the Ministry of Love (Miniluv) oversees torture and brainwashing, the Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty) oversees shortage and rationing, the Ministry of Peace (Minipax) oversees war and atrocity and the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) oversees propaganda and historical revisionism.
The Last Man in Europe was an early title for the novel but in a letter dated 22 October 1948 to his publisher Fredric Warburg, eight months before publication, Orwell wrote about hesitating between The Last Man in Europe and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Warburg suggested changing the main title to a more commercial one.
In the novel 1985 (1978), Anthony Burgess suggests that Orwell, disillusioned by the onset of the Cold War (1945–91), intended to call the book 1948. The introduction to the Penguin Books Modern Classics edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four, reports that Orwell originally set the novel in 1980 but he later shifted the date to 1982, then to 1984. The final title may also be a permutation of 1948, the year of composition. Throughout its publication history, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been either banned or legally challenged, as subversive or ideologically corrupting, like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), We (1924) by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Kallocain (1940) by Karin Boye and Fahrenheit 451 (1951) by Ray Bradbury. In 2005, Time magazine included Nineteen Eighty-Four in its list of the one hundred best English-language novels since 1923. Literary scholars consider the Russian dystopian novel We by Zamyatin to have strongly influenced Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The novel is in the public domain in Canada; South Africa, Argentina Australia, and Oman. It will be in the public domain in Brazil in 2021, and in the United States in 2044.