Huxley wrote Brave New World whilst 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.
A passage in Crome Yellow contains a brief pre-figuring of Brave New World, showing that Huxley had such a future in mind already in 1921. Mr. Scogan, one of the earlier book's characters, describes an "impersonal generation" of the future that will "take the place of Nature's hideous system. In vast state incubators, rows upon rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population it requires. The family system will disappear; society, sapped at its very base, will have to find new foundations; and Eros, beautifully and irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world."
Huxley said that Brave New World was inspired by the utopian novels of H. G. Wells, including A Modern Utopia (1905), and as a parody of 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 optimistic 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. For his part Wells published, two years after Brave New World, his own Utopian Shape of Things to Come. Seeking to refute the argument of Huxley's Mustafa Mond - that moronic underclasses were a necessary "social gyroscope" and that a society composed solely of intelligent, assertive "Alphas" would inevitably disintegrate in internecine struggle - Wells depicted a stable egalitarian society emerging after several generations of a reforming elite having complete control of education throughout the world. In the future depicted in Wells' book, posterity remembers Huxley as "a reactionary writer".
The scientific futurism in Brave New World is believed to be appropriated from Daedalus by J. B. S. Haldane.
The events of the Depression in the UK 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.: xxii
Huxley used the setting and characters in his science fiction novel to express widely felt anxieties, 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. Huxley was 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, and he saw the book's principles applied in everything he encountered after leaving San Francisco.: viii