Origin and writing
George Orwell wrote the manuscript between November 1943 and February 1944 after his experiences during the Spanish Civil War, which he described in Homage to Catalonia (1938). In the preface of a 1947 Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, he explained how escaping the communist purges in Spain taught him "how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries." This motivated Orwell to expose and strongly condemn what he saw as the Stalinist corruption of the original socialist ideals. Homage to Catalonia sold poorly; after seeing Arthur Koestler's best-selling, Darkness at Noon, about the Moscow Trials, Orwell decided that fiction was the best way to describe totalitarianism.
Immediately prior to writing the book, Orwell had quit the BBC. He was also upset about a booklet for propagandists the Ministry of Information had put out. The booklet included instructions on how to quell ideological fears of the Soviet Union, such as directions to claim that the Red Terror was a figment of Nazi imagination.
In the preface, Orwell described the source of the idea of setting the book on a farm:
I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.
In 1944, the manuscript was almost lost when a German V-1 flying bomb destroyed his London home. Orwell spent hours sifting through the rubble to find the pages intact.