The recently-translated "Universal History of Numbers" is a greatly expanded edition of the earlier book by Georges Ifrah that Heinz Lueneburg refers to. This new version does have a very substantial index, in the English translation at least (pp. 616-633, three columns per page).
I understand that in its native France, this book has attracted rather a lot of criticism from specialists in the areas covered by the book. The 'Bulletin APMEP' for April-May 1995 and June 1995 (nos 398 and 399) carried reviews by specialists in Maya numeration, Indian numeration, Chinese numeration and Mesopotamian numeration, all drawing attention to problems with the account of these subjects given by Ifrah. Jim Ritter, for instance, concludes his review of the Mesopotamian chapters with the statement:
"Tout ceci rend, he/las, le livre inutilisable: quand les erreurs -- de fait, d'interpre/tation, d'appre/ciation -- sont tellement re/pandues, le lecteur non spe/cialiste ne peut distinguer ce qui est vrai de ce qui est possible et faux."
This kind of debate doesn't seem to have occurred in the English-speaking world, and so if any of our French colleagues could fill us in on the points at issue this would be rather helpful.
Certainly it is not always clear just where Ifrah has got his information from, and how he has interpreted what evidence he has read from the work of specialists in the different fields. On the other hand the book is an extraordinary compendium of information, claims and insights that might be thought useful to teachers and others whose concern is for inspirational and fascinating resources.
It might be worthwhile to debate how the balance between inspiration and accuracy is to be struck. Can it be argued that an exciting book that is rather cavalier with its sources is nevertheless on balance a good thing, or must a book of this sort be considered to set such a disreputable example that it should be kept away from vulnerable minds? From books people learn not only factual information (which may or may not be true) but also, by example, an approach to acquiring and evaluating that information. Perhaps one's judgement about Ifrah depends on how one balances being told things with learning to find out things.