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|Centuries:||15th century – 16th century – 17th century|
|Decades:||1550s 1560s 1570s – 1580s – 1590s 1600s 1610s|
|Years:||1578 1579 1580 – 1581 – 1582 1583 1584|
|1581 by topic|
|Arts and science|
|Lists of leaders|
|Birth and death categories|
|Establishments and disestablishments categories|
|Ab urbe condita||2334|
|English Regnal year||23 Eliz. 1 – 24 Eliz. 1|
— to —辛巳年十二月初六日
|- Vikram Samvat||1637–1638|
|- Shaka Samvat||1503–1504|
|- Kali Yuga||4682–4683|
|- Ǹrí Ìgbò||581–582|
|Japanese calendar||Tenshō 9
|Juche calendar||N/A (before 1912)|
|Julian calendar||1581 MDLXXXI|
|Minguo calendar||331 before ROC
|Thai solar calendar||2124|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: 1581|
Year 1581 (MDLXXXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar, and a common year starting on Thursday (link will display full calendar) of the Proleptic Gregorian calendar.
- March – The Parliament of England's Act against Reconciliation to Rome imposes heavy fines for practicising Roman Catholicism.
- March 25 – Iberian Union: Philip II of Spain crowned Philip I of Portugal.
- April 4 – Following his circumnavigation of the world, Francis Drake is knighted by Elizabeth I of England.
- July 26
- The Northern Netherlands (Union of Utrecht) proclaim their independence from Spain in the Act of Abjuration. They abjure loyalty to Philip II of Spain as their sovereign, and appoint Francois, Duke of Anjou as the new sovereign of the Netherlands. Public practise of Roman Catholicism is forbidden.
- A meteorite makes landfall in Thuringia, Holy Roman Empire.
- August 28 – The army of king Stefan Batory of Poland begins its siege of the Russian garrison of Pskov
- Summer (probable) – Yermak begins the Russian conquest of the Khanate of Sibir with a band of 1,636 men.
- September – A mercenary army of Sweden under Pontus De la Gardie captures Narva from Russia.
- November 4 – Jean de la Cassière is restored as Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitaller by Pope Gregory XIII.
- December 1 – Execution in England of the Jesuit priest Edmund Campion for treason.
Date unknown 
- The Knights Hospitaller depose Jean de la Cassière as Grandmaster and appoint Mathurin Romegas.
- The Ming Dynasty Chancellor of China, Chief Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng, imposes the Single Whip Reform, by which taxes are assessed on properties recorded in the land census and paid in silver as the accepted medium of exchange.
- Oda Nobunaga invades the Iga Province.
- John Dee practices angel magic with Barnabas Saul but with no success.
- January 4 – James Ussher, Anglo-Irish priest and scholar (d. 1656)
- February 17 – Fausto Poli, Italian Catholic priest (d. 1653)
- March 16 – Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, Dutch historian (d. 1647)
- April 24 – Vincent de Paul, French Priest (d. 1660)
- October 9 – Claude Gaspard Bachet de Méziriac, French mathematician (d. 1638)
- October 21 – Domenico Zampieri, Italian painter (d. 1641)
- date unknown
- Gasparo Aselli, Italian physician (d. 1626)
- Jeremias Drexel, Jesuit writer of devotional literature
- Edmund Gunter, English mathematician (d. 1626)
- Jean du Vergier de Hauranne, French monk who introduced Jansenism into France (d. 1643)
- Charles Malapert, Belgian Jesuit writer (d. 1630)
- Łukasz Opaliński (1581–1654), Polish nobleman (d. 1654)
- Thomas Overbury, English poet and essayist (d. 1613)
- Johannes Rudbeckius, bishop at Västerås (d. 1646)
- Choghtu Khong Tayiji, ruler of the Khalkha Mongols (d. 1637)
- April 25 – Okabe Motonobu, Japanese warrior
- May 31 – Jan Kostka (1529–1581), Polish noble (b. 1529)
- June 2 – James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, regent of Scotland (b. 1525)
- July 11 – Peder Skram, Danish senator and naval officer (b. 1500)
- July 22 – Richard Cox, English bishop (b. 1500)
- August 21 – Sakuma Nobumori, Japanese retainer and samurai (b. 1527)
- August – King Mayadunne, Sri Lanka (b. 1504)
- September 1 – Guru Ram Das, fourth Sikh Guru (b. 1534)
- September 30 – Hubert Languet, French diplomat and reformer (b. 1518)
- October 9 – Saint Louis Bertrand, Spanish missionary to Latin America, patron saint of Colombia (b. 1526)
- October 23 – Michael Neander, German mathematician and astronomer (b. 1529)
- November 4 – Mathurin Romegas, rival Grndmaster of the Knights Hospitaller (b. c.1525)
- November 7 – Richard Davies, Welsh bishop and scholar (b. c. 1505)
- December 1
- December 21, Jean de la Cassière, 51st Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitaller (b. 1502)
- date unknown
- Palmer, Alan; Veronica (1992). The Chronology of British History. London: Century Ltd. pp. 160–162. ISBN 0-7126-5616-2.
- Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Reference Library. 2006. ISBN 0-14-102715-0.
- "Catalogue of aërolites and Bolides, from A.D. 2 to A.D. 1860". Meteoritehistory.info. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- Williams, Hywel (2005). Cassell's Chronology of World History. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 230–233. ISBN 0-304-35730-8.