The 1490s decade ran from January 1, 1490, to December 31, 1499.
October 12, 1492 – Columbus
discovers the Americas for Spain.
- Ashikaga Yoshitane becomes shōgun of Japan.
- Perkin Warbeck claims to be the son of King Edward IV of England, at the court of Burgundy.
- Traditional date of the Battle of Glendale (Skye) between the Scottish clans MacDonald and MacLeod.
- Catholic missionaries arrive in the African Kingdom of Kongo.
- Pêro da Covilhã arrives in Ethiopia.
- Regular postal service connects the Habsburg residences of Mechelen and Innsbruck, the first in Germany.
- Leonardo da Vinci observes capillary action, in small-bore tubes.
- Leonardo da Vinci develops an oil lamp: the flame is enclosed in a glass tube, placed inside a water-filled glass globe.
- All Saints' Church, the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, is begun.
- Chinese scholar and printer Hua Sui invents bronze-metal movable type printing in China, although the earlier Wang Zhen had experimented with tin movable type in 1298.
- Tirant lo Blanch, by Joanot Martorell and Martí Joan de Galba, is published.
- Aldus Manutius moves to Venice.
- John Colet receives his M.A. from Magdalen College, Oxford.
- Johann Reuchlin meets Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.
- Merchants carry coffee from Yemen to Mecca (approximate date).
- May 3 – The ruler of the Kingdom of Kongo, Nkuwu Nzinga, is baptised by Portuguese missionaries, adopting the baptismal name of João I.
- September – Battle of Vrpile Gulch in southern Croatia: Forces of the Ottoman Empire are defeated by those of the Kingdom of Croatia.
- November – The pretender Perkin Warbeck begins a campaign to take the English throne, with a landing in Ireland.
- November 7 – Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and King Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary sign the Peace of Pressburg, formally ending the Austrian–Hungarian War.
- November 16 – An auto-da-fé held in Brasero de la Dehesa (outside Ávila) concludes the case of the Holy Child of La Guardia, with the execution of several Jewish and converso suspects.
- November 25 – Reconquista: The Granada War is effectively brought to an end (and the Siege of Granada extended for two months) with the signing of the Treaty of Granada between the Catholic Monarchs of Spain and the Moorish Emirate of Granada.
- December 6 – King Charles VIII of France marries Anne of Brittany, forcing her to break her marriage with Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, thus incorporating Brittany into the kingdom of France.
- December 21 – The Truce of Coldstream secures a five-year peace, between Scotland and England.
- January 2 – Fall of Granada: Muhammad XII, the last Emir of Granada, surrenders his city to the army of the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile) after a lengthy siege, ending the ten-year Granada War and the centuries-long Reconquista, and bringing an end to 780 years of Muslim control in Al-Andalus.
- January 6 – Ferdinand and Isabella enter into Granada.
- January 15 – Christopher Columbus meets Ferdinand and Isabella at the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos in Córdoba, Andalusia, and persuades them to support his Atlantic voyage intended to find a new route to the East Indies.
- January 16 – The first grammar of the Spanish language (Gramática de la lengua castellana) is presented to Queen Isabella I.
- January 23 – The Pentateuch is first printed.
- March 31 – Ferdinand and Isabella sign the Alhambra Decree, expelling all Jews from Spain unless they convert to Roman Catholicism.
- April 17 – The Capitulations of Santa Fe are signed between Christopher Columbus and the Crown of Castile, agreeing on arrangements for his forthcoming voyage.
- June 8 – Death of Elizabeth Woodville, the last living Yorkist queen.
- July 31 – The Jews are expelled from Spain; 40,000–200,000 leave. Sultan Bayezid II of the Ottoman Empire, learning of this, dispatches the Ottoman Navy to bring the Jews safely to Ottoman lands, mainly to the cities of Thessaloniki (in modern-day Greece) and İzmir (in modern-day Turkey).
- August 3 – The Genoese navigator Christopher Columbus sails with three ships from Palos de la Frontera, in the service of the Crown of Castile, on his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, intending to reach Asia.
- August 11 – Pope Alexander VI succeeds Pope Innocent VIII as the 214th pope, after the 1492 papal conclave, the first held in the Sistine Chapel.
- September 6 – Christoper Columbus sails from La Gomera in the Canary Islands, his final port of call before crossing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.
- October 3 – English army besieges Boulogne.
- October 11 – Several members of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus witness an unusual light.
- October 12 – Christopher Columbus' expedition makes landfall in the Caribbean and lands on Guanahani, but he believes he has reached the East Indies.
- October 28 – Christopher Columbus lands in Cuba.
- November 3 – The Peace of Étaples is signed between England and France, ending French support for Perkin Warbeck, the pretender to the English throne. All English-held territory in France (with the exception of Calais) is returned to France.
- November 7 – The Ensisheim meteorite, a 127 kg (280 lb) meteorite, lands in a wheat field near the village of Ensisheim in Alsace.
- December 5 – Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola.
- December 9 – Bobin Rockman becomes first human to 'come in on two wheels.'
- December 25 – Columbus' ship Santa María runs aground off Cap-Haïtien, and is lost.
- December 31 – About 100,000 Jews are expelled from Sicily.
- Antonio de Nebrija publishes Gramática de la lengua castellana, the first grammar text for the language of Castile, in Salamanca, which he introduces to Ferdinand and Isabella as "a tool of empire."
- Martin Behaim constructs the first surviving globe of Earth, the Erdapfel. As Columbus would only return from his voyage in 1493, this globe does not show the New World yet.
- Casimir IV Jagiellon, of the Jagiellon Royal House, ends his reign (1427–1492).
- The first arboretum to be designed and planted is the Arboretum Trsteno, near Dubrovnik in Croatia.
- Russians build the Ivangorod Fortress, on the eastern banks of the Narva River.
- In Ming Dynasty China, the commercial transportation of grain to the northern border, in exchange for salt certificates, is monetized.
- Ermysted's Grammar School, Skipton, North Yorkshire, is founded.
- Marsilio Ficino publishes his translation and commentary of Plotinus.
- January 4 – The Cetinje Octoechos (Цетињски октоих, an Eastern Orthodox octoechos (liturgy), first tone), the first incunabulum written in the Serbian recension of Church Slavonic, and the first book printed in Cyrillic in Southeast Europe, is completed in Cetinje.
- January 25 – Alfonso II becomes King of Naples.
- May – Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, recognises Perkin Warbeck as rightful King of England.
- May 5 – Christopher Columbus first sights Jamaica.
- May 7 – The infant Amda Seyon II succeeds his father Eskender, as Emperor of Ethiopia.
- May 31 – First Battle of Acentejo: Natives of the island of Tenerife, known as Guanches, defeat the invading Spanish forces.
- June 1 – Brother John Cor of Lindores Abbey pays duty on 8 bolls of malt to the Exchequer in Scotland to make aqua vitae for King James IV; the record in the Exchequer Rolls is the first written reference to Scotch whisky.
- June 7 – Treaty of Tordesillas: Spain and Portugal divide the New World between themselves.
- June 25 – The first hurricane ever observed by Europeans strikes the Spanish settlement of La Isabela, on Hispaniola.
- October 22 – Ludovico Sforza becomes Duke of Milan, and invites Charles VIII of France to invade Italy in support of his claim, beginning the Italian War of 1494–98.
- October 26 – Amda Seyon II is deposed and killed, and his uncle Na'od succeeds him as Emperor of Ethiopia.
- November 9 – The House of Medici is expelled from Florence.
- November 10 – Fra Luca Pacioli's Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalità is published in Venice, containing the first printed account of algebra in the vernacular, and the first published description of the double-entry accounting system.
- November 17 – Italian War of 1494–98: The armies of Charles VIII of France enter Florence.
- December 25 – Second Battle of Acentejo: The Spanish crush the native forces of the island of Tenerife, leading to the subjugation of this last bastion of resistance in the Canary Islands.
- February – King's College, Aberdeen, predecessor of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, is founded on the petition of William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen. It is the first English-speaking university to teach medicine.
- February 22 – Italian War of 1494–98: King Charles VIII of France enters Naples, to claim the city's throne. A few months later, he decides to return to France, and leaves Naples with most of his army, leaving a force under his cousin Gilbert, Count of Montpensier as viceroy. Syphilis is first definitely recorded in Europe during this invasion. (perhaps from French forces who may have contacted Croats fleeing an Ottoman army in the east).
- May 26 – A Spanish army under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba lands in Calabria, with the purpose of ousting the French and restoring Ferdinand II of Naples to the throne.
- June 1 – Friar John Cor records the first known batch of Scotch whisky.
- June 28 – Battle of Seminara: Córdoba and Ferdinand are defeated by a French army under Bernard Stewart, Lord of Aubigny.
- July 3 – Battle of Deal: Perkin Warbeck's troops land in Kent, in support of his claim to the English crown, backed by Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy. They are routed before Warbeck himself can disembark, and he retreats to Ireland and then to Scotland.
- July 6 – Battle of Fornovo: The French army under King Charles secures its retreat from Italy, by defeating a combined Milanese-Venetian force under Giovanni Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua.
- Summer – John, King of Denmark, sets sail for Kalmar, Sweden, to negotiate with Sten Sture the Elder to restore the power of the Kalmar Union. However, his flagship, Gribshunden, catches fire and sinks off the coast of Ronneby with loss of life, and he is forced to abandon the mission.
- October 25 – King Manuel I of Portugal begins his reign.
- November 30 – An explosion at Vyborg Castle deters the Russian forces, who have invaded Sweden through Karelia.
- February – Pietro Bembo's Petri Bembi de Aetna Angelum Chalabrilem liber is published in Venice by Aldus Manutius (the first book printed in the Old Style serif or Humanist typeface, cut by Francesco Griffo, and known from the 20th century as Bembo).
- February 24 – King Henry VII of England signs the commercial treaty Intercursus Magnus with Venice, Florence, and the cities of the Hanseatic League and the Netherlands.
- March 5 – Henry VII of England issues letters patent to Italian-born adventurer John Cabot and his sons, authorizing them to discover unknown lands.
- March 10 – Christopher Columbus leaves Hispaniola for Spain, ending his second visit to the Western Hemisphere. During his time here he has forcibly subjugated the island, enslaved the Taíno, and laid the basis for a system of land grants tied to the Taíno's enslavement.
- June 12 – Jesus College, Cambridge, is founded.
- July – Spanish forces under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba capture Atella after a siege. Among the prisoners is the French viceroy of Naples, the Comte de Montpensier. Ferdinand II of Naples is restored to his throne.
- August 5 – Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher Columbus, formally founds the city of Santo Domingo (first settled in March) on Hispaniola (in the modern-day Dominican Republic), making it the oldest permanent European settlement in the New World.
- September 21–25 – James IV of Scotland invades Northumberland, in support of the pretender to the English throne, Perkin Warbeck.
- October 20 – Joanna of Castile, second daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, heiress to Castile, marries the archduke Philip, heir through his mother to the Burgundian Netherlands, and through his father to the Holy Roman Empire.
- December 5 – King Manuel I of Portugal issues a decree ordering the expulsion of "heretics" from the country.
- Date unknown – Jan de Groote, a Dutchman, obtains a grant for the north ferry from the mainland of Scotland to Orkney, from King James IV of Scotland.
- February 7 (Shrove Tuesday) – Followers of Girolamo Savonarola burn thousands of "immoral" objects, at the Bonfire of the Vanities in Florence.
- May – The Cornish Rebellion breaks out in England, incited by war taxes.
- May 10 – Amerigo Vespucci allegedly leaves Cádiz, for his first voyage to the New World.
- May 12 – Pope Alexander VI excommunicates Girolamo Savonarola.
- May 20 – John Cabot sets sail from Bristol, on the ship Matthew (principally owned by Richard Amerike), looking for new lands to the west (some sources give a May 2 date).
- June 13 – The Catholic Monarchs issue the ordinance of Medina del Campo, creating a money system based on the copper maravedí, creating the peso of 34 maravedis. In the next three centuries, this system will dominate international payments. It will be used in almost all parts of the Americas and large parts of Asia. It is the basis for a number of modern currencies, including the U.S. dollar.
- June 17 – Battle of Deptford Bridge near London: Cornish rebels under Michael An Gof are soundly defeated by Henry VII. 
- June 24 – John Cabot lands in North America (near present day Bonavista, Newfoundland).
- July 8 – Vasco da Gama's fleet departs from Lisbon, beginning his expedition to India.
- September 7 – Second Cornish Uprising in England: Perkin Warbeck lands near Land's End; on September 10 he is proclaimed as King in Bodmin.
- September 28 – John, King of Denmark, defeats Sten Sture the Elder at the Battle of Rotebro.
- September 30 – Treaty of Ayton establishes a seven-year peace between England and Scotland.
- October 4 – Leaders of the Second Cornish Uprising surrender to the King at Taunton; the following day, Warbeck, having deserted his army, is captured at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire.
- October 6 – Sten Sture the Elder is forced to resign and end his 27-year term as Regent of Sweden. King John of Denmark and Norway is acknowledged by the estates as King of Sweden and formally elected on October 18, restoring the power of the Kalmar Union.
- December 5 – King Manuel I of Portugal proclaims an edict in which he demands that Jews convert to Christianity or leave the country.
- December 23 – Sheen Palace is destroyed by fire. Henry VII of England rebuilds it as Richmond Palace.
- February – Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama reaches Malindi, in modern-day Kenya.
- March 2 – Vasco da Gama visits Quelimane and Mozambique, in southeastern Africa.
- May 20 – Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama arrives at Calicut (now Kozhikode), India, becoming the first European to get there by sailing around Africa, thus discovering the maritime route to India. He finds a local Arab merchant who is able to interpret for him.
- May 23 – Girolamo Savonarola, ruler of Florence, is executed for criticizing the Pope.
- June – Niccolò Machiavelli is elected by the Great Council, as the second chancellor of the Republic of Florence.
- Summer – The final Welsh revolt of the medieval era breaks out in Meirionnydd, North Wales; Harlech Castle is captured by the rebels before the revolt is suppressed.
- July 31 – On his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to discover the island of Trinidad.
- August 1 – Columbus discovers the mouth of the Orinoco.
- August 4–12 – Columbus explores the Gulf of Paria.
- September 20 – 1498 Nankai earthquake off the coast of Japan.
- January 8 – Louis XII of France marries Anne of Brittany, in accordance with a law set by his predecessor, Charles VIII.
- May 19 – 13-year-old Catherine of Aragon, the future first wife of Henry VIII of England, is married by proxy to his brother, 12-year-old Arthur, Prince of Wales.
- July 22 – Battle of Dornach: The Swiss decisively defeat the army of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.
- July 28 – First Battle of Lepanto: The Turkish navy wins a decisive victory over the Venetians.
- August – Polydore Vergil completes De inventoribus rerum, the first modern history of inventions.
- August 24 – Lake Maracaibo is discovered, by Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci.
- September 18 – Vasco da Gama arrives at Lisbon, returning from India, and is received by King Manuel of Portugal.
- September 22 – Treaty of Basel: Maximilian is forced to grant the Swiss de facto independence.
- October 25 – The Pont Notre-Dame in Paris, constructed under Charles VI of France, collapses into the Seine.
- November 5 – The Catholicon is published in Tréguier (Brittany). This Breton–French–Latin dictionary had been written in 1464 by Jehan Lagadeuc. It is the first dictionary of either French or Breton.
- November 23 – Perkin Warbeck, pretender to the throne of England, is hanged for reportedly attempting to escape from the Tower of London.
- November 28 – Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, last male member of the House of York, is executed for reportedly attempting to escape from the Tower of London.
- December 18 – The Rebellion of the Alpujarras (1499–1501) begins in the Kingdom of Granada (Crown of Castile).