Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931 while he was living in England. By this time, Huxley had already established himself as a writer and social satirist. He was a contributor to Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines, and had published a collection of his poetry (The Burning Wheel, 1916) and four successful satirical novels: Crome Yellow (1921), Antic Hay (1923), Those Barren Leaves (1925), and Point Counter Point (1928). Brave New World was Huxley's fifth novel and first dystopian work.
Huxley said that Brave New World was inspired by the utopian novels of H. G. Wells, including A Modern Utopia (1905) and Men Like Gods (1923). Wells' hopeful vision of the future's possibilities gave Huxley the idea to begin writing a parody of the novel, which became Brave New World. He wrote in a letter to Mrs. Arthur Goldsmith, an American acquaintance, that he had "been having a little fun pulling the leg of H. G. Wells," but then he "got caught up in the excitement of [his] own ideas." Unlike the most popular optimist utopian novels of the time, Huxley sought to provide a frightening vision of the future. Huxley referred to Brave New World as a "negative utopia", somewhat influenced by Wells' own The Sleeper Awakes (dealing with subjects like corporate tyranny and behavioural conditioning) and the works of D. H. Lawrence.
George Orwell believed that Brave New World must have been partly derived from the novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. However, in a 1962 letter, Huxley says that he wrote Brave New World long before he had heard of We. According to We translator Natasha Randall, Orwell believed that Huxley was lying. The scientific futurism in Brave New World is believed to be cribbed from Daedalus by J. B. S. Haldane
The events of the depression in Britain in 1931, with its mass unemployment and the abandonment of the gold standard currency, persuaded Huxley to assert that stability was the "primal and ultimate need" if civilisation was to survive the present crisis. The Brave New World character Mustapha Mond, Resident World Controller of Western Europe, is named after Sir Alfred Mond whose vast technologically advanced plant near Billingham, north east England, Huxley visited shortly before writing the novel, which made a great impression on him.
Although the novel is set in the future it deals with contemporary issues of the early 20th century. The Industrial Revolution had transformed the world. Mass production had made cars, telephones, and radios relatively cheap and widely available throughout the developed world. The political, cultural, economic and social upheavals of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the First World War (1914–1918) were resonating throughout the world as a whole and the individual lives of most people. Accordingly, many of the novel's characters are named after widely recognised, influential and in many cases contemporary people.
Huxley used the setting and characters from his science fiction novel to express widely held opinions, particularly the fear of losing individual identity in the fast-paced world of the future. An early trip to the United States gave Brave New World much of its character. Not only was Huxley outraged by the culture of youth, commercial cheeriness, sexual promiscuity and the inward-looking nature of many Americans, he had also found the book My Life and Work by Henry Ford on the boat to America, the principles of which he saw applied in everything he encountered after leaving San Francisco. There was a fear of Americanization in Europe. Thus seeing America firsthand, and from reading the ideas and plans of one of its foremost citizens, Huxley was spurred to write Brave New World with America in mind. The "feelies" are his response to the "talkie" motion pictures, and the sex-hormone chewing gum is a parody of the ubiquitous chewing gum, which was something of a symbol of America at that time.