Year 1381 (MCCCLXXXI) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.
- March 14 – Chioggia concludes an alliance with Zadar and Trogir against Venice, which becomes changed in 1412 in Šibenik.
- June 12 – Peasants' Revolt: In England, rebels from Kent and Essex, led by Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, meet at Blackheath. There the rebels are encouraged by a sermon, by renegade priest John Ball.
- June 14 – Peasants' Revolt: Rebels destroy John of Gaunt's Savoy Palace and storm the Tower of London, killing the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chancellor. King Richard II of England meets the leaders of the revolt, and agrees to reforms such as fair rents, and the abolition of serfdom.
- June 15 – Peasants' Revolt: During further negotiations, Wat Tyler is murdered by the King's entourage. Noble forces subsequently overpower the rebel army. The rebel leaders are eventually captured and executed and Richard II revokes his concessions. The revolt is discussed in John Gower's Vox Clamantis and Froissart's Chronicles.
- August – Kęstutis overthrows his nephew, Jogaila, as Grand Duke of Lithuania. Jogaila is allowed to remain as governor of eastern Lithuania. This marks the beginning of the Lithuanian Civil War (1381–84).
- Due to Joanna I of Naples' support for Antipope Clement VII, Pope Urban VI bestows Naples upon Charles of Durazzo. With the help of the Hungarians, Charles advances on Naples and captures Joanna.
- The Ming Dynasty of China annexes the areas of the old Kingdom of Dali, in what is now Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, inhabited by the Miao and Yao peoples. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese (including military colonists) will migrate there from the rest of China.
- James of Baux, the ruler of Taranto and the Latin Empire, claims the Principality of Achaea, after the imprisonment of Joanna I of Naples.
- Sonam Drakpa deposes Drakpa Changchub, as ruler of Tibet.
- Hajji I succeeds Alah-ad-Din Ali, as Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. The Egyptian government continues to be controlled by rebel leader Barquq.
- After a naval battle, Venice wins the three-year War of Chioggia against Genoa. The Genoans are permanently weakened by the conflict.
- Timur conquers east Persia, ending the rule of the Sarbadar dynasty.
- In Ming Dynasty China, the lijia census registration system begun in 1371 is now universally imposed, during the reign of the Hongwu Emperor. The census counts 59,873,305 people living in China in this year. This depicts a drastic drop in population since the Song Dynasty, which counted 100 million people at its height in the early 12th century. The historian Timothy Brook, in his The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China, states that the Ming census was inaccurate, as China in the late 14th century had at least 65,000,000 inhabitants, if not 75,000,000.
- ^ Brook, Timothy (1998). The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-22154-3
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