The elements of algebra were known to the ancient Mesopotamians at least 4000 years ago. Today algebra stands as one of the cornerstones of modern mathematics. How then did the subject evolve? How did its constituent ideas and concepts arise, and how have they changed over the years? These are the questions that the authors address in this work. The authors challenge the existing view that the development of algebra was driven by the investigation of determinate equations and in particular their solution by radicals. In short they claim that the study of indeterminate equations was no less important. Historians of mathematics, as well as working algebraists who want to look into the history of their subject, will find this an illuminating read.