Huxley wrote Brave New World while living in Sanary-sur-Mer, France, in the four months from May to August 1931. 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's hopeful vision of the future's possibilities gave Huxley the idea to begin writing a parody of the novels, 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's 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 1921 novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. However, in a 1962 letter to Christopher Collins, 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 currency standard, 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. Shortly before writing the novel, Huxley visited Mond's technologically advanced plant near Billingham, north east England, and it made a great impression on him.
Huxley used the setting and characters in 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 and 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, and he saw the book's principles applied in everything he encountered after leaving San Francisco.