The Inn is a professional body that provides legal training, selection, and regulation for members. It is ruled by a governing council called "Parliament", made up of the Masters of the Bench (or "Benchers"), and led by the Treasurer, who is elected to serve a one-year term. The Temple takes its name from the Knights Templar, who originally leased the land to the Temple's inhabitants (Templars) until their abolition in 1312. The Inner Temple was a distinct society from at least 1388, although as with all the Inns of Court its precise date of founding is not known. After a disruptive early period (during which the Temple was almost entirely destroyed in the Peasants' Revolt) it flourished, becoming the second largest Inn during the Elizabethan period (after Gray's Inn).
The Inner Temple expanded during the reigns of James I and Charles I, with 1,700 students admitted between 1600 and 1640. The First English Civil War's outbreak led to a complete suspension of legal education, with the Inns close to being shut down for almost four years. Following the English Restoration the Inner Templars welcomed Charles II back to London personally with a lavish banquet.
After a period of slow decline in the 18th century, the following 100 years saw a restoration of the Temple's fortunes, with buildings constructed or restored, such as the Hall and the Library. Much of this work was destroyed during The Blitz, when the Hall, Temple, Temple Church, and many sets of chambers were devastated. Rebuilding was completed in 1959, and today the Temple is a flourishing and active Inn of Court, with over 8,000 members.
The Inner Temple is one of the four Inns of Court, along with Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, and the Middle Temple. The Inns are responsible for training, regulating, and selecting barristers within England and Wales, and are the only bodies allowed to call a barrister to the Bar and allow him or her to practice.
The Temple is an independent, unincorporated organisation, and works as a trust. It has approximately 8,000 members and around 450 apply to join per year. Although the Inn was previously a disciplinary and teaching body, these functions are now shared between the four Inns, with the Bar Standards Board (a division of the General Council of the Bar) acting as a disciplinary body and the Inns of Court and Bar Educational Trust providing education.