|Centuries:||15th century – 16th century – 17th century|
|Decades:||1540s 1550s 1560s – 1570s – 1580s 1590s 1600s|
|Years:||1576 1577 1578 – 1579 – 1580 1581 1582|
- January 6 – The Union of Atrecht united the southern Netherlands under the Duke of Parma, governor in the name of king Philip II of Spain.
- January 23 – The Union of Utrecht united the northern Netherlands in a confederation called the United Provinces. William I of Orange becomes Stadtholder, and the Duc d'Anjou, younger brother of Henry III of France is invited to become hereditary sovereign.
- March – Capture of Maastricht by the Spanish under Parma.
- June 17 – Sir Francis Drake, during his circumnavigation of the world, lands in what is now California, which he claims for Queen Elizabeth I. With an English claim here and in Newfoundland, it becomes the basis for English colonial charters which will claim all land from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from "sea to sea." Drake's claim is called "Nova Albion" (meaning, New England), and subsequent maps will show all lands north of New Spain and New Mexico under this name.