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|Centuries:||15th century – 16th century – 17th century|
|Decades:||1550s 1560s 1570s – 1580s – 1590s 1600s 1610s|
|Years:||1585 1586 1587 – 1588 – 1589 1590 1591|
|1588 by topic|
|Arts and science|
|Lists of leaders|
|Birth and death categories|
|Establishments and disestablishments categories|
|Ab urbe condita||2341|
|English Regnal year||30 Eliz. 1 – 31 Eliz. 1|
— to —戊子年十一月十四日
|- Vikram Samvat||1644–1645|
|- Shaka Samvat||1510–1511|
|- Kali Yuga||4689–4690|
|- Ǹrí Ìgbò||588–589|
|Japanese calendar||Tenshō 16
|Juche calendar||N/A (before 1912)|
|Julian calendar||Gregorian minus 10 days|
|Minguo calendar||324 before ROC
|Thai solar calendar||2131|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: 1588|
- February – The Sinhalese abandon the siege of Colombo, capital of Portuguese Ceylon.
- February 9 – The sudden death of Álvaro de Bazán, 1st Marquis of Santa Cruz, in the midst of preparations for the Spanish Armada, forces King Philip II of Spain to re-allocate the command of the fleet.
- April 4 – Christian IV becomes King of Denmark upon the death of his father Frederick II.
- May 12 – Day of the Barricades in Paris: Henry I, Duke of Guise seizes the city, forcing King Henry III to flee.
- May 28 – The Spanish Armada, with 130 ships and 30,000 men, begins to set sail from the Tagus estuary heading for the English Channel (it will take until May 30 for all of the ships to leave port).
- July – King Henry III of France capitulates to the Duke of Guise and returns to Paris.
- July 31 – The first engagement between the English and Spanish fleets, off Plymouth, results in a victory for the English under command of Lord Howard of Effingham and Sir Francis Drake.
- August 2 – The English and Spanish fleets meet again, off Portland. The English again have the better of it.
- August 6 (July 29 Old Style) – Battle of Gravelines: The Spanish Armada is defeated by the English naval force off the coast of Gravelines in the Spanish Netherlands (in modern France).
- August 7 – The English and Spanish fleets again engage off the coast of Flanders. The English again are more successful.
- August 8–August 9 – The Spanish are unable to reach the coast of Flanders to meet up with the army of the Duke of Parma. The Duke of Medina Sidonia decides to return to Spain.
- August 12 – The fleeing Spanish fleet sails past the Firth of Forth, and the English call off their pursuit. Much of the Spanish fleet is destroyed by storms as it sails for home around Scotland and Ireland.
- October 7 – The first biography of Nicolaus Copernicus (d.1543) is completed by Bernardino Baldi.
- December 5 – The Order of Augustinian Recollects is formally recognised as a separate province from the Order of Saint Augustine, an event later known as the "Día de la Recolección" or "Day of Recollection".
- December 23 – Henry III of France strikes his ultra-Catholic enemies, having the Duke of Guise and his brother, Cardinal Louis of Guise, killed, and holding the Cardinal de Bourbon a prisoner. As a result, large parts of France reject Henry III as their king, forcing him to side with Henry of Navarre
Date unknown 
- Ahmad al-Mansur, sultan of Morocco, demands that the king of Songhay pay a heavy tribute in exchange for Saharan salt, probably as an intentional provocation. When Songhay's answer is defiant, the sultan declares war and marches his army through Sahara to Songhay.
- William Morgan's Welsh translation of the Bible is published.
- The "Armada Portrait" of Elizabeth I of England is created to celebrate the English defeat of the Spanish Armada and to assert the strength of Elizabeth herself.
- March – Johann Heinrich Alsted, German theologian (d. 1638)
- April 5 – Thomas Hobbes, English philosopher (d. 1679)
- April 15 – Claudius Salmasius, French classical scholar (d. 1653)
- May 2 – Étienne Pascal, French mathematician (d. 1651)
- May 13 – Ole Worm, Danish physician and antiquary (d. 1654)
- May 28 – Pierre Séguier, Chancellor of France (d. 1672)
- June 9 – Johann Andreas Herbst, German composer and music theorist (d. 1666)
- June 11 – George Wither, English poet and satirist (d. 1667)
- August – François de La Mothe-Le-Vayer, French writer (d. 1672)
- September 1 – Henri, Prince of Condé (1588–1646)
- September 8 – Marin Mersenne, French theologian (d. 1648)
- September 10 – Nicholas Lanier, English composer (d. 1666)
- October 16 – Luke Wadding, Irish Franciscan friar and historian (d. 1657)
- December 10
- date unknown
- John Danvers, English politician (d. 1655)
- John Endecott, English politician (d. 1665)
- Robert Filmer, English political writer (d. 1653)
- Accepted Frewen, English churchman (d. 1664)
- Francis Higginson, colonial American Puritan (d. 1630)
- Jan Janssonius, Dutch cartographer (d. 1664)
- Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet (d. 1665)
- John Winthrop, influential Puritan in the history of Massachusetts (d. 1649)
- January 5 – Qi Jiguang, Chinese general (b. 1528)
- February 24 – Johann Weyer, Dutch physician and occultist (b. 1515)
- March 5 – Henri I de Bourbon, prince de Condé (b. 1552)
- March 10 – Theodor Zwinger, Swiss scholar (b. 1533)
- April 4 – King Frederick II of Denmark (b. 1534)
- April 19 – Paolo Veronese, Italian painter (b. c. 1528)
- May 5 – Giorgio Biandrata, Italian physician (b. 1515)
- June 10 – Valentin Weigel, German theologian (b. 1533).
- June 18 – Robert Crowley, London stationer (b. 1517)
- July 17 – Mimar Sinan, Ottoman architect (b. 1489)
- August 8 – Alonso Sánchez Coello, Spanish painter (b. c. 1531)
- August 12 – Alfonso Ferrabosco, Italian composer (b. 1543)
- August 30 – Margaret Ward, English saint (birthdate unknown)
- September 3 – Richard Tarlton, English actor (b. 1530)
- September 4 – Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, English politician (b. 1532)
- September 26 – Amias Paulet, Governor of Jersey (b. 1532)
- October 1 – Edward James, English Catholic martyr (executed at Chichester)
- October 2 – Bernardino Telesio, Italian philosopher and natural scientist (b. 1509)
- November 1 – Jean Daurat, French poet and scholar (b. 1508)
- December 23 – Henry I, Duke of Guise, French Catholic leader (b. 1550)
- date unknown