I think there are a number of different historical contexts that might have influenced Bush’s vision of the future. The most obvious social context that is referenced at the beginning of the article is the scientific efforts that took place in the United States and other Allied powers. The most obvious science effort during this era was the Manhattan Project, but even the early information scientists of the era contributed to the war effort in the field of cryptology. Alan Turning and Claude E. Shannon, figures who would make massive contributions to computer science and information science worked on cryptology projects during the war. The war effort brought some of the greatest minds together to solve practical problems faced by the Allied powers. The success of Allied researchers likely inspired the optimism that is present in Bush’s analysis of the future of information retrieval. Another way in which the scientific war effort might have inspired Bush’s essay is that as head of the Office of Scientific Research and Development he would have become personally aware how much effort it takes to supply scientists with relevant journal material.
A second context to Bush’s theories is the growing industrialization of the Western world. When I read Bush’s essay it reads like an outline on how to industrialize the process of recording and retrieval of information. Just like the assembly line during the Second Industrial Revolution allowed workers to be more efficient at creating automobiles, devices such as the Memex or Bush’s transcription machine allow researchers to be more efficient in the process of scientific discovery.